Posts Tagged ‘extraordinary rendition’
UPDATE — DECEMBER 31, 2009: The post below, originally published on July 26, 2008, was written as an outcropping of our disgust over the genocide and ethnic cleansing taking place in the United States’ brutal covert war in Somalia. We never finished this post and never will (see note at bottom of this page). However, the information herein continues to be as relevant today as it will be tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. (Think Obama constitutes a change from the Bush Administration’s warmongering for oil under the guise of fighting terrorism? Think again.)
Many Americans would be surprised to know that, throughout the course of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. has also been busy with wars elsewhere in the world. Only, we don’t call them wars. We call them things like peacekeeping missions, nation-building or “low intensity conflicts.” Or, as is the case in Colombia, where the U.S. is at work wresting control of oil pipelines and trying to destabilize the bordering oil-rich countries, such as Venezuela, while demonizing the leaders of these countries, we call it a “war on drugs” — even as the U.S. is the pusher man working out of Colombia, using the proceeds from our drug sales to fund our war machine in South America. (Think about it. Has cocaine ever been cheaper or more available than since Clinton and Bush began their war on drugs in Colombia? The same is true of heroin in the Afghanistan drug trade). And we don’t, as a rule, fight these wars ourselves. Instead, we buy off corrupt dictators and/or destabilize and overthrow democratically elected leaders and install corrupt dictators of our own choosing. Then we build armies for them — funding, training and arming these paramilitaries to the tune of millions, so that they can fight our various covert and proxy wars on terror around the globe, which are, coincidentally, in the most mineral-strategic countries on the planet — from South America to Africa and the Middle East. It is no coincidence that the U.S. is the world’s largest arms supplier, our war machine generating loyalties, death and destruction in over 174 states and territories.
These wars are given little scrutiny on the media radar, even as they’re claimed to be part of the larger war on terror — or, in the case of, say, Sudan, they fly under the guise of humanitarian efforts. Much like Somalia, Yemen is not so strategic for its oil reserves, but for its natural gas reserves. Oh, and there’s also that matter of its location (location, location). Specifically, Somalia and Yemen are located across from each other, like mirrors, on either side of the opening from the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. This strait connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden through which our oil and gas laden ships must pass.The U.S. has been covertly warring for years to control this shipping lane. As such, news stories — past present and future — on Ethiopia, Djibouti, Yemen, Somalia and, yes, pirates are inseparable from this larger story, a story about a superpower that will use any ruse to get what it wants, up to and including climbing in and out of bed with friends, enemies and even the terrorists we claim to be fighting.
As for the collateral damage from our clandestine wars — genocide, ethnic cleansing and untold millions of human lives ground into starvation, disease, misery, death and civil war — America alternately ignores and feigns outrage. When it becomes strategically feasible and/or necessary, the U.S. military steps out of the shadows, setting up high-profile military installations, so that we may help these poor victims, or protect them from the “bad guys,” with whom we may or may not still be in bed. This is the story being replayed in countries throughout the world. Yemen is no exception.
Considering that during the months before 9-11, the FBI had their finger on the pulse of the pre-9-11 terrorist network in Yemen (to which the Bush Administration was in
“ignore” mode), it is curious that U.S.has subsequently enjoyed the sort of relationship with Yemen over the past 8 years, where we could rendition detainees there to be tortured at our CIA black sites in Yemen. Which makes it somehow ironic that the media is using the Yemen connections of the recent underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab/AbdulMutallab, to help us recall and re-ignite our anger over 9-11. It seems the American public is now being signaled that it’s time to switch from from ignore-mode to the outrage-mode being feigned by our leaders. This is, of course, our cue, as patriotic, freedom-loving Americans to rally behind our pre-Christmas bombing campaign waged on the innocent men, women and children in Yemen, which promises to be an ongoing campaign in the war formerly known as Bush’s war on terror. It is no coincidence that this latest bombing campaign was already underway when the underpants bomber boarded the plane for America. Nor is it a coincidence that the trail of the underpants bomber is littered with questions that, for the official record, go unasked and unanswered.
Such has been the nature of America’s war on terror, beginning with 9-11. Our leaders can afford to be arrogant and sloppy because, truth be known, the U.S. is untouchable. We encourage those interested in these stories to do their own research. This page is a good starting point. Our apologies that we cannot finish our own effort out, and for any dead links on this page.
In this vein, why has there been such a preponderance of al Qaeda terrorists (or, rather, a preponderance of **propaganda about **al Qaeda) surrounding the oil fields of the world over the past 7 years?
The current war in Iraq is not the first U.S. war for oil. Nor is it the first war for oil that has claimed massive civilian casualties, which were then concealed by the U.S. media. This is the first war for oil, however, fought on the grounds that a foreign country posed a direct threat to the U.S. — false grounds — which our government intentionally deceived us into believing. This is also the first war for oil fought under the mantle of spreading freedom and democracy, even as the U.S. government funds and arms both sides in a civil war: Shiites against Sunnis and Sunnis against Shiites — who then terrorize, torture, slaughter and commit ethnic cleansing of the very Iraqi populations we’re supposedly fighting to “save” from the evil terrorists. There’s a term for the type of warfare being waged by the U.S. in Iraq. It’s called war crimes.
That the American people have not demanded accountability from Congress, and have largely remained silent about the atrocities of this war – whether through complacent ignorance or sheer disbelief that our government could actually commit such atrocities — has only served to condone this war and the policies of this administration. Our collective silence has, in effect, given Bush-Cheney carte blanche to wage other wars on terrorism – wars now being fought in countires throughout the world, with scarcely a mention in the U.S. media.
Unknown to most Americans is that dozens of countries throughout the world have now been accused of harboring al Qaeda terrorists. Unknown to most Americans is that the Bush-Cheney Administraion is and has been waging clandestine wars in these countries, under the banner of “fighting terrorism,” sometimes called “peacekeeping missions” and “nation-building.” Unknown to most Americans is that we are currently spending millions of dollars in each of these countries, to fight mere handsful of alleged al Qaeda terrorists, whose existence — in many instances — is based on “intelligence” as leaky as the intelligence that sent us to war in Iraq. The potential and the reality (as seen in both Iraq and Afghanistan) is that these wars result in “chasing needles by burning haystacks,” as entire populations of innocent civilians are brutalized by the Bush-Cheney war machine , as it pursues small handsful of terrorists, who may or may not even exist.
Lost in all the flurry of Bush’s February 2007 announcement of the surge in Iraq was his concurrent announcement of another surge — this one on the continent of Africa. Having neatly accomplished ‘Iraqi solutions for Iraqi problems’ in their war for oil distribution in Iraq, Bush-Cheney — poised, now, to undertake another empire — easily won congressional approval for “African solutions to African problems.” aka, U.S.AFRICOM: the U.S. African Command and its military arm ACOTA. A Department of Defense military operation, AFRICOM was created by Bush-Cheney to enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa. Started in October 2007, and set to be fully operational by September 30, 2008, AFRICOM is installing military commands in a total of 53 African countries – that’s all of Africa, except Egypt.
In an August 2007 congressional briefing, State and Defense Department officials emphasized to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that AFRICOM’s aim is to boost cooperation on anti-terrorism and peacekeeping activities, and programs that promote regional stability. In this same briefing, Theresa Whelan, Deputy Assistant for African affairs, echoed this sentiment — assuring Congress that AFRICOM is focused on security, not combat. On the heels of this assurance, however, she nonetheless cautioned: ” I would anticipate that there would be an increase in the amount of exercises we conduct and other military-to-military cooperation activity.”
Many in Africa are understandably suspicious. Believing, perhaps, that past is prologue — the majority of countries are protesting the presence of AFRICOM, as are many individuals around the world, including some high-profile activists, such as Danny Glover , who consider the ongoing U.S.-British militarization of Africa to be little more than a strategy toward gaining control of Africa’s natural resources, most notably its oil. As one critic noted: “Peace operations” and “nation building” are what the military and the mercenaries call their activities. But just like Bush’s “healthy forests” and “clear skies” initiatives, the names mean the opposite of what they do.
The Oil Fields of Africa: Black Gold, Texas Tea
The conundrum the Bush-Cheney Administration faces in Africa is the same all the world over: how to pry the mineral rights from the rightful owners — the African people, in this case — while convincing Congress and the American public that our presence is purely benevolent? The events of September 11th provided an easily path: wage war on terror. This path is all the easier in Africa, where so many countries are already under the control of corrupt, suppressive dictators, whose loyalties are easily purchased.
The tactics used by Bush-Cheney are generally the same, however, no matter what the county. First, they make a case for terrorism in the country – preferably al Qaeda. Then, and not necessarily in this order, they (1) provide U.S. military assistance to fight terrorism, (2) accuse any one who disagrees with the U.S. military presence of being a terrorist insurgent, (3) incite existing cultural tensions toward divisiveness or civil war, (4) fund and arm the “goods guys” and/or the “bad guys” (aka terrorists) to physically remove — through either ethnic cleansing and sometimes genocide — the native populations living on the lands around the oil fields and pipelines, (5) if these populations protest, label them as terrorist insurgents.
Throughout each step of the process, U.S. oil interests are expanded and secured — under the guise of “economic development” for the host country. When all is said and done, however, it is the U.S. who owns the controlling interests in their oil fields. Of course, by the time AFRICOM was created, Bush-Cheney had already done the legwork, having identified terrorist influences in most of the oil-rich African countries set to receive AFRICOM’s military commands. And in a few countries — such as Somalia and Sudan — they’d already accomplished steps 1 through 5.
As an aside, a smattering of quotables on the topic:
After the end of the Cold War, U.S. policy toward Africa was driven by President George H. W. Bush’s vision of a “New World Order.” …. President Bush announced in his 2006 State of the Union Address his intention to “to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025,” …. analysts estimate that Africa may supply as much as 25% of all U.S. oil imports by 2015. — from the Report for Congress, “Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa,” March 10, 2008.
Today that new world is struggling to be born, a world quite different from the one we’ve known. A world where the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle. — From President George H.W. Bush’s speech, “Toward a New World Order,” delivered before the nation and a joint session of Congress, September 11, 1990
Along with Latin America, West Africa is expected to be one of the fastest growing sources of oil and gas for the American market. African oil tends to be of high quality and low in sulfur, making it suitable for stringent refined product requirements, and giving it a growing market share for the refining Centers on the East Coast of the U.S. — Dick Cheney, May 16, 2001
In the aftermath in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, it is increasingly clear that the United States ignores Africa at its peril….The continent’s failed states and huge swaths of ungoverned territory offer sanctuary to terrorist groups. — American Enterprise Institute May 2004 conference bulletin: Leave No Continent Behind: U.S. National Security Interests in Africa
Oh, and one other dirty little secret from 5,000 years of history: Ethnic cleansing works. –Armed Forces Journal, June 2006. “Blood Borders: How a Better Middle East Would Look,” by Ralph Peters
It is easy to understand, then, the fears of African citizens, who feel helpless to the incoming U.S. military presence in their countries. Some in America know this same helplessess, as we’ve seen war protesters branded as terrorist sympathizers or “homegrown terrorists” in recent years. The difference between Americans and Africans is that we do not have a history (up to this point, anyway) of being forced from our homes by the U.S. military, or of witnessing the mass slaughtering of our families, neighbors, communities, of whole towns of people, who protested the policies of the U.S. government. The fear of these African countries is understandable, then, as America’s war on terror turns its calculating eye toward the oil fields of Africa.
NOTE: The post, below, is from June 2009. To see our most recent post on Aafia Siddiqui, published 1/19/2010, see: The New American Justice: Aafia Siddiqui’s Trial by Water
HAS IT BEEN ONLY 317 YEARS?
From June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft. Dozens languished in jail for months without trials. Then, almost as soon as it had begun, the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts ended. (“An Account of Events in Salem,” from the University of Missouri — Kansas City website)
The hunt was characterized by unrestrained torture and and an obsession with getting tortured witches to name other witches. (from Witch Hunts in Europe and America: An Encyclopedia, by William E. Burns)
By now, most Americans — having heard the word “waterboarding” at least 183 times over the past month — seem to have grown immune to the visceral horrors attending to that particular techinque that the International Red Cross terms “suffocation by drowning.” We’ve surely grown immune to human suffering. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have reduced the topic of torture to a mere parlor game — an exercise in sophistry — as the left and the right mentally wrestle with questions whose answers have been known for centuries: Is waterboarding torture? Does torture ‘work’?
[Click here to read the rest of this introduction on U.S. policy and torture. Or just skip the intro entirely, and keep reading onward, into the stories of several individuals (with particular focus on Aafia Siddiqui) who have been falsely arrested, illegally imprisoned, “disappeared,” subjected to extraordinarily rendition and/or tortured over the past 8 years — and counting.]
An American Story
Imagine this: You are a 41 year-old man, a U.S. citizen, born in Kansas, an Army veteran, married with three children, practicing family law in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon; you pay your taxes on time, have never had a brush with the law. You are the quintessential “average American citizen.” Imagine, then, your surprise when the FBI descends on your home and fingers you as the mastermind of the 2004 Madrid train bombing that killed 191 people and injured over 2000. Your name is Brandon Mayfield, and it’s official: You have just been arrested as the mastermind in an international terrorist plot.
“But I haven’t left the country in over 10 years!” you protest. “And I’ve never even been to Spain! How could this happen?”
Turns out it was your fingerprint. The FBI’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) identified your fingerprint as a possible match to the one found on a plastic bag near the Madrid bombing. The match was then verified in quadruplicate by FBI fingerprint experts, which lent full credibility to the claim in their affidavit: “….the FBI lab stands by their conclusion of a 100 percent positive identification.” It was the fingerprint, see.
‘Lucky’ for you, your incarceration lasted only 2 weeks. The Spanish police identified the real mastermind (some guy from Algeria), prompting the FBI to dismiss the charges against you. In return, you file a a civil-rights lawsuit against the U.S. government. Herein, more facts emerge. Turns out, the Spanish police had already rejected the FBI’s identification of your fingerprint — twenty-three days before your arrest — as “conclusively negative.” Perhaps that would have been the end of that, if not for the smoking gun: you were also a Muslim convert.
Convinced of your guilt, the FBI spent those twenty-three days doggedly pursuing a case against you, with an intensity that the Spanish Police found perplexing. As one commissioner said, “It seemed as though they [the FBI] had something against him, and they wanted to involve us.” Lacking probable cause for search and seizure, the FBI turned to the nifty new provisions in the Patriot Act, which allowed them to entirely sidestep your Fourth Amendment rights, via “sneak and peak” warrants.
Turns out, you and your wife hadn’t been imagining things. Your door lock had been tampered; someone had been in your home. You were being watched. It was the FBI who, in your absence, snuck into your home, your office, and even the family farm in Kansas,“surreptitiously, photographing papers, downloading hard drives, and planting listening devices.”
But you were ‘lucky.’ You had, at your disposal, due process — stuff like habeas corpus, and an attorney to represent you in a U.S. court of law. Your case was fairly clear-cut, too. That is, once the facts were allowed to see the light of day. In the end, the FBI aplogized and you were awarded a $2 million settlement. And in 2007, a federal judge ruled that those nifty Patriot Act provisions used by the FBI to sneak into your home actually violated the U.S. Constitution.
Now imagine that you are a 34-year old man — married, a father, a Canadian citizen for 17 years, Syrian-born. And, oh, a muslim. Imagine yourself going on vacation with your family to Tunisia in 2002 and, upon your return flight home to Canada, passing through the JFK airport in New York City. Here, you are detained in solitary confinement and interrogated for 12 days, then shackled and flown to Syria, where you are imprisoned inside a coffin-sized underground cell for 10 months + 10 days, being subjected throughout this time to beatings and torture sessions to extract information which the U.S. government is certain you own.
While you initially refuse to admit to something you didn’t do, the torture finally becomes so unbearable, that you will say anything to make it stop — up to and including making false confessions, admitting guilt to whatever terrorist acts your torturers accuse you. Your name is Maher Arar and — even as you are ultimately determined to be 100% innocent — your case is not as clear cut as Brandon Mayfield’s. You are, after all, a Canadian citizen. And, oh, a muslim of Arab descent.
Still, the facts of your case do eventually see the light of day. The Canadian government launches a Commission of Inquiry into your case and, in 2006 (three years after your release from your extraordinary rendition to Syria), you are cleared of all accusations. The Canadian government issues an official apology, and you are awarded a settlement of $10.5 million Canadian dollars. For their part, however, the U.S. government and the FBI refuse to extend an apology, official or otherwise (even as there were a few notable lawmakers of integrity on Capitol Hill who did issue personal apologies on behalf of the U.S. government).
Seeking to clear your name, you file a lawsuit against the U.S. government for violating your civil rights. But the Bush Administration refuses to allow your case to come to trial, for reasons of “national security.” To this day, you are still on the U.S. terrorist watch list and are forbidden to enter the country.
The likelihood of your case going to trial in the U.S. is slim, as the Obama Administration has, so far, aligned itself with the Bush Administration, — having recently used the “state secrets” argument to deny trials to 5 other Bush Administration victims who were similarly flown to other countries to be tortured. According to Obama, the Bush Administration was right: allowing these innocent victims a trial could threaten national security.
Now imagine this: You are a 31-year old man, an accredited freelance cameraman and photographer, working for Reuters in Iraq. On September 1, 2008, U.S. forces, accompanied by dogs, storm your home in the middle of the night — breaking down your door, barking orders and terrifying the grandparents, children and grandchildren inside. You are taken into custody and thrown into jail, without charges. Three months pass. Still, no formal charges, no evidence, no due process.
In a stroke of democracy, the Iraqi central criminal court orders your release, for lack of evidence. The U.S. bars your release, however, saying you are a threat to Iraq security and stability. The protests of your family, of Reuters and international human rights and media rights groups fall on deaf ears. More months pass. To this day, you are still in jail, without charges. Your name is Ibrahim Jassam, and you are but one of dozens of journalists imprisoned — without charges — under the Bush Administration.
You are, so far, luckier than some. According to Reporters Without Borders, hundreds of journalists have been killed in Iraq, with many more forced into exile, imprisoned or simply disappeared. Too, some have been imprisoned for much longer than you. Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, Bilal Hussein, for instance, was imprisoned for two years. Al Jazeera journalist, Sami al-Haj was imprisoned for over 7 years, with 6-1/2 of these years spent at Guantanamo, where America sends “the worst of the worst.”
[Here it must be said that Sami al-Haj’s story, alone, is evidence enough that our leaders and media should give pause to the Bush Administration’s “intelligence” that has effectively colored the entire population of 240 Guantanamo detainees — including those who have been long-pronounced innocent, but also those whose guilt was cemented under confessions extracted through torture — as a mix of terrorists and men so dangerous that they cannot safely be released anywhere on the planet Earth, much less allowed fair trials that would, in all likelihood, clear the names of some of these prisoners, the only “threat to national security” being that their trials would reveal the extent of the U.S. government’s tyranny.]
(video, above) Associated Press report (39 seconds long) on Bilal Hussein’s release in 2008, with footage of his reunion with his AP colleagues and his family
Both Bilal Hussein and Sami al-Haj were released in 2008. Neither was ever charged with a crime, even as their incarcerations were justified by a series of shifting accusations, based on top secret evidence that, for national security reasons, could not be divulged: Bilal Hussein (see AP timeline of his case here) was accused, at one point, of being caught in possession of bomb-making materials, while Sami al-Haj was alternately accused of videotaping Osama bin Laden, sending money to suspicious Muslim charities, and arranging for the transport of a Stinger anti-aircraft system from Afghanistan to Chechnya. Despite these ludicrous accusations, in appears that these journalists were guilty of nothing more than practicing journalism.
Your name is Ibrahim Jassam, and you’ve been in jail for 9 months, without charges. Your misfortune is that you are being detained by the U.S. government. Had you been detained by, say, Iran you would have been afforded at least some semblance of due process — formal charges, an attorney, a trial, an appeals process. Had you been detained by, say, North Korea, your injustice would be given a voice in the U.S. media. Had you been arrested by anyone but the American government, you would be a poster child, of sorts, for media suppression under tyrannical regimes.
Your name is Ibrahim Jassam, and your story is almost, but not quite, unknown in America. According to your family, which has been allowed only a handful of visits, you used to be handsome. “But now he’s pale and he’s tired,” says your brother, describing one of these visits: “Every now and then while we were talking, he would start crying. He was begging me: ‘Please do something to get me out of here. I don’t know what is the charge against me.‘ I told him we already tried everything.”
Now imagine this: You are a 31-year old mother of three; you are also an MIT graduate with a PhD in cognitive neuroscience. [In hindsight, there is cruel irony to the topic of your dissertation, in which you explored how people learn — specifically, the interaction between visual memory and perception. In your abstract, you wrote, “Without a visible trail, it is difficult for the subject to form a picture or story.”] . It is late March of 2003. Just a few days earlier, the U.S. went to war in Iraq and — as is now known — the CIA, the FBI and the Bush Administration at large were working around the clock to put together the intelligence necessary to justifying this war.
Up until a year earlier, you’d spent 12 years living in America as a dual citizen of the U.S. and Pakistan. You’d originally moved to the U.S. in 1990 to attend college and be nearer your sister and brother — a Harvard-trained neurologist and a Houston architect, respectively. While living in the U.S., you married a medical student in Boston, who went on to work as an anesthesiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. You gave birth to 2 children. Neighbors and friends described you as a devoted mother, spending the bulk of your time in the everyday routines of raising your children, overseeing play groups with their friends. You were also a devout Muslim and donated both time and money to charitable causes and missionary work to help less fortunate Muslims.
Because contributing to Muslim charities constituted a red flag in post-9-11 American, the FBI was watching you and had been since the fall of 2001. According to U.S. intelligence sources, your husband purchased night goggles and body armor off the internet in 2001, which he claimed were intended for big game hunting. Because of these purchases, you, yourself, were brought in for questioning by U.S. officials. Although you were released after questioning, this interrogation served as further evidence that the post-9-11 hostility toward Muslims was escalating. This factored into your decision to return to Pakistan — a debate that had already caused considerable strain in your marriage: you you wanted to raise your children in America, while your husband wanted to raise them in Pakistan. In 2002 — with your marriage now on the rocks — you and your husband returned to Pakistan.
By March of 2003, you’d been estranged from your husband for over 7 months, during which time you lived with your mother and gave birth to your third child, who was now 6 months old. Three months earlier, in December 2002, you’d returned to the United States to apply for jobs in the Baltimore area, where your sister was now working at Sinai Hospital. After making several applications — and interviewing with both Johns Hopkins and SUNY — you opened a post office box to receive replies from prospective employers, then returned to your children and your mother in Pakistan.
Now imagine that the FBI believes the only reason you opened that post office box was to receive communications as part of an al Qaeda plot to blow up gas stations and fuel tanks in the Baltimore area. Imagine, too, that during the course of the FBI’s 18-month surveillance of you and your husband, they discovered that, during the summer of 2001, one of your former Muslim acquaintances from Boston had been wired $20,000 from Saudi Arabia (a sum which, according to the explanation given by a Saudi official to the Boston Globe, was sent to pay for medical treatment for the man’s wife). Lastly, imagine that, the FBI believes that this $20,000 is connected to a purported diamond smuggling trip, made by a mysterious woman in the summer of 2001, to fund al Qaeda operations. According to the FBI, that mystery woman is you.
To this story add water, then quickly spin
It is now March 28, 2003. Just a week earlier, on March 20th, the U.S. invaded Iraq. Several weeks earlier, on March 1st, the alleged architect of 9-11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was captured. It seems that — during one of his 183 waterboard interrogation sessions — your name came up.
Rather than undertake too ambitious of a project (e.g. laying out the evidence that McCain, an adherent to the Yosemite Sam school of diplomacy, suffers from ‘angry little man’ complex, his worldview shaped by the perpetual chip he carries around on his shoulder, or making a case for the similarities between being a role player of violent video games vs. being a fighter pilot dropping bombs on women and children, en masse, from the relative detachment of a cockpit), we’ve narrowed our focus to 3 real-life examples of what John McCain brings to the foreign policy table, all of which share a common thread: a sore lack of objectivity in the man who would be president. That is, to the extent that the world exists and functions independently of John’s McCain’s narrow field of vision, the man is oblivious. The emperor is naked.
FATAL FLAW #1: Much ado has been made over McCain’s recent interview, in which he juxtaposed his confusion over Spain’s geography with an odd, pre-emptive refusal to meet, under a McCain presidency, with Prime Minister Zapatero of Spain. The key ingredient of this exchange has been overlooked — namely, the reason for John McCain’s appearance of confusion. Go ahead and try: Listen to the exchange as many times as you like, you’ll never make sense of it, because it makes no sense. Only by listening between the lines can you hear what was really being said.
John McCain wasn’t confused. Even if he mistook Zapatero for Zapatista, he wasn’t confused. He simply wasn’t listening. He already knew the answer, his mind was made up. This is why, no matter how many times the interviewer re-phrased the question, his answer remained the same. In this seemingly innocuous scenario lies the first of John McCain’s 3 fatal flaws: he doesn’t listen, and he rarely does, because he already owns the answers. And should reality corner him like a rat, he’ll charge back, teeth bared, attacking those who would disparage his wrongness. He’s just as likely to simply change his answer — without apology, and sans introspection — even if it means telling a straight-faced lie. Just like that.
We’ve seen this same tack replay in recent days during the Wall Street crisis. No need to puzzle over McCain’s fist-flailing and wild contradictions from one day to the next. This is simply what he does. He’s not so concerned about the facts and inner workings of the situation at hand, as he is about preserving the appearance of being right. The question then becomes: on what does John McCain base his pre-conceived answers? Like anyone else, he likely bases his original answers on information. Problems arise when (1) the information changes, as is wont to happen in real life, or (2) his original conclusion proves to be wrong. This is the real McCain. The only reason we’re seeing him so clearly, is because he’s standing under a bigger microscope. It’s historically in keeping with his character to attack those who challenge him, to erratically say and do things that make absolutely no sense, and to lie. Quit calling McCain’s Spanish Inquisition a “gaffe,” folks. It’s a character flaw. And it doesn’t take much imagination to see how this flaw could play out in various foreign policy exchanges.
Repeat after me, Professor Higgins: “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain, and in Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen”
FATAL FLAW #2:John McCain — himself a former victim of torture — drafted and endorsed legislation to legalize torture. You may hear words to the contrary, but scratch below the surface, and you’ll find only impassioned rhetoric. The truth resides in McCain’s actual record, whereby he extended and approved Bush’s existing liberties with justice — the sort of liberties that allowed the U.S. to send an innocent man to a prison in Syria, where he would spend the next year being tortured to extract confessions. Sound implausible? Just ask Maher Arar. (Never heard of Maher Arar? Check out the videos below, plus the links at the end of this post, which tell his story, including the Congressional hearings in the wake of his release from that Syrian prison). Here, it should be stressed that, while torture has proven a useful tool in extracting confessions, it has proven useless in extracting the truth. John McCain should know this. He sung like a canary when he reached his own breaking point during torture sessions, saying he’d have confessed to anything, just to make them stop.
Regarding McCain’s role in torture legislation, there is an excellent April 2008 piece in Salon, by Glen Greenwald, titled “John McCain and Bush’s Torture Policies” which gives a brief, factual history on McCain’s role in legislating torture and granting the Bush Administration discretionary powers to by-pass the Geneva Convention. I suggest reading Greenwald’s article in entirety, bearing in mind, as you read, that John McCain’s role in this legislation literally changed the laws of our country, so that Bush “could” (as opposed to “would” or “will” in legal terms**) legally extract information from terrorists by any means necessary, including torturing their children, burying suspects alive, or by subcontracting their torture to other countries (most often Egypt, Syria or Afghanistan). In Maher Arar’s case, he was flown to Syria, where he spent the following year living in a grave-like 3′ x 6′ cell, being tortured into making false confessions, a fate eerily similar to the one John McCain, himself, suffered at the hands of his North Vietnamese captors.
Sending Maher Arar “to be confined in a gravelike cell and tortured did nothing to make America safer.” —Senator Patrick Leahy, 2007
That our policies toward torture define our moral compass, as a nation, goes without saying. It also goes without saying, that our flagrant disregard of international law in our treatment of suspects, detainees and prisoners-of-war is an open invatation for others to revisit the same onto American troops. But what John McCain needs to hear, if only he’d listen, is that lawlessness begets lawlessness. We’ve seen this over the past decade or so, with America’s “chickens coming home to roost” in one way or another. An ugly truth — no one wants to believe it — but someone had to say it. John McCain suffers from the delusion that America owns the right to make exceptions to the established tenets of constitutional and international law, the ends always somehow justifying the means. Those other countries or individuals who behave in kind are simply evil: they’re terrorists, they’re rogue nations. By endorsing torture and lawlessness, John McCain has shown that, not only does he lack the ability to learn from history’s painful lessons, but that his approach to the law operates independently of a moral compass.
Next up: Baghdad! — John McCain, January 2, 2002
I am very certain that this military engagement will not be very difficult. It may entail the risk of American lives and treasure, but Saddaam Hussein is vastly weaker than he was in 1991. — John McCain, September 12, 2002
About that surge….
FATAL FLAW #3: The feather in the emperor’s cap is, of course, the surge. The surge, the surge, the surge…. How many times has the phrase, “The success of the surge” been bandied about on the news, withnary a word of truth breathed on the topic? How many times has McCain berated Obama for not supporting the surge? How many times has he ridiculed Obama for not sharing McCain’s prescient vision on the surge? The canarypapers ranted a bit on this topic in our July 24th post, “The Surge: Ethnic Cleansing with Perks,” wherein we offered a corrected version of history.
In a nutshell, for those interested in such things, the surge “worked” only if you consider it a success to purchase 90,000 Sunni soldiers in an effort to “awaken” them to stop killing U.S. soldiers. You’ll never hear this on the evening news, because it’s contrary to the fairy tale we’ve been fed by the Bush Administration. The truth is simply this: the reason the death toll in Iraq dropped is NOT because of, but is merely incidental tothe additional 30,000 U.S. troops sent to Iraq. This is but one of four truths about the surge, which you’ll never hear on the evening news: (1) we bought the oppositions’ armies (90,000 Sunnis added to the 450,000 Shiites already in our employ) and made them into our “friends,” and (2) we sent an additionalU.S. 30,000 troops over to train our new Sunni “friends” and, (3) we armed both armies of “friends” to engage in civil war to kill and maim one another, with Sunnis slaughtering and ethnically cleansed Shiites and vice-versa — which created and intensified divisions where none existed before, ultimately undermining and killing the possibility of reconciliation or compromise between the two (tho the good news is, U.S. deaths went down!) and, lastly, (4) Muqtada alSadr — the guy we really, really, really hate in Iraq (because he’s a bloodthirsty crazy Shitte with zero scruples, and may be a terrorist, to boot) — called a ceasefire in the summer of 2007, which he has since honored.
It’s really no more complicated than that, unless you’re the sort who wants to know about the nuts and bolts of the U.S. strategy to keep the Iraqi citizens under our control, by the above-mentioned ethnic cleansing, plus torture, illegal detainment and myriad other war crimes, richly studded with no-bid U.S. contracts for oil. This is, in great part, how and why the U.S. maintains the lie that the Iraqis stubbornly refuse to “take control of their government.” We don’t want them to take control. We want them to surrender their oil right to us. Capisce? Using the word “success” in the same sentence with “surge” is a vulgar contradiction of terms. But fear not, it’ll probably be another 30 years before the history books catch up with the truth.
For his part, John McCain has gotten a free ride, clinging to the coattails of the Bush’s fairy tale of the surge. But this is not the point. The point is that John McCain is no maverick. And if there’s one thing this country has needed over the past 8 years, while suffering under the rule of a broken and corrupt war machine, it’s been a maverick. What we got, instead, was John McCain — a yes-man to the Bush Administration whose worldview is shaped by a persistent neglect of the facts — even as these facts are freely available to anyone with access to “the Google” and C-SPAN.
Now that it’s clear that the surge has succeeded and brought victory in Iraq within sight, Senator Obama can’t quite bring himself to admit his own failure in judgment.Instead, he commits the even greater error of insisting that, even in hindsight, he would still oppose the surge.— John McCain, July 27, 2008 (Editor’s note: Could it be that Obama knows something about the surge that McCain has overlooked — namely, the facts?)
Through the Bush Administration’s unholy war on terror, we’ve seen up-close John McCain’s tack on foreign policy, which could only be called maverick in the sense that it’s erratic: he carries a perpetual chip on his shoulder; he is morally detached from the on-the-ground reality of war; he doesn’t listen; his belief-system operates independently of the facts; he maintains a bull-headed insistence that he’s right, no matter what the facts, but will freely change his answers to suit reality; he ruthlessly attacks anyone who disagrees with him; his approach to law & order lacks a moral compass; he’s not above lying.
In the case of the Iraq war, all of the above are true. But the tragedy lies in the fact that John McCain has had before him the same intelligence we’ve all owned: America was taken to war in Iraq — and has been duped into staying the course — on the basis of false pretense and cooked intelligence. A real maverick would have demanded that the broken war machine be set right. A real maverick would not cling to the principles of wrong, and boastfully call it right. John McCain has had 7-years of opportunities to do the right thing, and has consistently failed to act on them.
In the coming days, this country will likely be tested (A stupendously devious Rovesque lie or series of lies about Obama? A September surprise? October attack? Here? Elsewhere? Who knows? ) to see how well we’ve learned our lessons over the past 8 years. One thing is for certain: John McCain is continuing, unabated, down the very path laid by George Bush. The emperor is naked. Shall we follow? Or shall we take Obama’s lead and take this country in a better direction?
by Mantis Katz, for the canarypapers
** re: paragraph 2 from fatal flaw #2, above
“Could” the Bush Administration Order the Torture of Children and Burying Alive of Prisoners?
A simple yes or no would have sufficed. In this House Judiciary Hearing, White House attorneys John Yoo and David Addington are asked this very question, to determine the administration’s torture policies regarding children and burying prisoners alive. Yoo and Addington are the two leading architects of the Bush administration’s policies on torture. Their testimony revealed few answers (none, actually), as even the simplest questions yielded evasive sleights-of-hand maneuvers, such as the sort of ‘legal speak’ lawyers are known to employ when evading answering a question. Here, with a 5-minute time limit on the testimony, we see the Judiciary committee members grow increasingly frustrated and, at turns, outraged (accusing Yoo, at one point, of playing “Beat the Clock”) as each attempt to get a straight answer is stonewalled by Yoo and Addington. Longer versions of this testimony are available on YouTube.
Pertinent articles & videos for more info:
ABOVE: Former POW speaks: “John McCain is not the perso I’d like to see with his finger near the red button….John McCain’s temprement makes it clear that he’s not cut out to be president of the United States.”
ABOVE: John McCain’s heroism as a POW in the Vietnam conflict; this is making some waves in the news due to McCain’s presidential candidacy. The documentary “Missing, Presumed Dead the Search for America’s POWs” however focuses more on Senator John McCain successfully blocking the release of classified POW/MIA documents. Here is a DVD extra from that documentary. A DVD of the documentary may be purchased at www.MissingPresumedDead.com
Vietnam too far back? Here are some more recent veterans — our brave soldiers who served in Iraq — speaking on McCain in a short film, “Why Won’t McCain Sign the GI Bill?”. Here, we can see that McCain is at least consistent when it comes to supporing (NOT) veterans.
ABOVE (2) : Greenwald Films: The Real McCain, Parts 1 & 2: In reality, McCain seems as clueless on foreign policy as he is on the economy, on domestic policy, on the lives of ordinary Americans, and on what he, himself, states with utter conviction from one day to the next.
The McCain Doctrine = The Bush Doctrine, in case you were wondering
Huffington Post: Not a Gaffe? McCain campaign willing to destroy relationship with Spain, Europe to conceal confusion
canarypapers: Monkeys with Molotovs: The gutter politics of McCain, Palin, Rove & Co.
canarypapers: On the occasion of the 7th anniversary of September 11th, a call for truth.
canarypapers: The Surge in Iraq: Ethnic Cleansing with Perks (This post contains many, many, many links to back up these two facts: (1) the war in Iraq is an illegal war, waged on false pretense and cooked intelligence, and (2) the surge is a farce, from start to finish. Many Americans already own these truths. McCain ignores these truths in favor of the fairy tale version of the Iraq war, spun by the Bush-Cheney Administration. McCain’s motives for this are myriad, not the least of which is his perpetual refusal to listen to the facts, or to admit when he’s wrong, or to change his mind, unless the truth corners him like a rat. His mind is made up, and, as the Spain interview showed, McCain doesn’t listen to anyone, once his mind is made up. Too, the fact is — and despite his protests to the contrary — the man rather likes a good war, the same way some people are drawn toward toward the tenets of peace, love, dipomacy and understanding.)
The New Yorker: Outsourcing Torture: The secret history of America’s ‘extraordinary rendition’ program
Harper’s Magazine: The Missing IG Report on Maher Arar
Harper’s Magazine: More on Maher Arar
CBC News: Maher Arar: Statement
CBS News: His Year in Hell: Maher Arar’s story, told to Vicki Mabrey
World Socialist Website: McCain-Bush “anti-torture” measure gives legal coverage for continued abuse
TalkLeft: the politics of crime: McCain torture policy undercut by amendment
ThinkProgress: McCain says he is ‘obviously’ against torture, forgets his vote to allow waterboarding
New York Times: Veto of Bill on CIA Tactics Affirms Bush’s Legacy
ProjectVote: McCain’s vote on the Military Commissions Act of 2006
Washington Post: McCain on Torture – Vote Against Waterboarding Bill Called Consistent
These two are filed under the “and the lies keep on coming” category. Read them in tandem, for context.
Washington Post: McCain Suggests Bush Has Approved Torture
ThinkProgress: McCain Sides with Bush on Torture Again — Supports Veto of Anti-Waterboarding Bill
A film by Robert Greenwald: “Unconstitutional – The War on Our Civil Liberties”
Joe Biden said it best: “For every American who is trying to do the right thing, for all those people in government who are honoring their pledge to uphold the law and respect our Constitution, no longer will the eight most dreaded words in the English language be: ‘The vice president’s office is on the phone.'”
Truly, Biden’s words last night flew by so fast — and coming, as they did, seemingly out of nowhere — that we almost missed them. But these words were, perhaps, the most important words spoken at the convention last night. For those of us who have been paying attention — really paying attention to just what in the hell has happened to our country over the past 7 years — we know that Joe Biden hit the nail on the head: Dick Cheney.
It was Dick Cheney and his henchmen, David Addington and John Yoo, who orchestrated the assault on our Constitution and Bill of Rights; Dick Cheney who orchestrated the cooking of intelligence to go to war in Iraq. It was Dick Cheney who orchestrated the transfer of power in this country from the people’s voice to corporations, so that his corporate cronies could rake in billions upon billions of dollars in the U.S. wars for oil all over the world — from Afghanistan and Iraq, to the more recent war-by-proxy in Georgia (not to mention the other covert wars throughout the Caucuses, Latin America and all of Africa ).
It was Dick Cheney and his henchmen who orchestrated a system of laws that would legalize torture, secret prisons, extraordinary rendition, illegal detention, the loss of habeas corpus for anyone deemed a terrorist suspect — up to, and including, American citizens, who have been relentlessly spied on over the past 7 years for evidence that they, themselves, might be deemed “rebellions” or “homegrown terrorists” or “terrorist sympathizers” or “terrorist suspects” or “enemy combatants” for being so bold as to have an opinion on peace, on war, on animal rights, on human rights.
And it was Dick Cheney and henchman, such as Karl Rove, who orchestrated the fearmongering to feed their “war on terror” — not to protect America from the bad guys, but to scare the hell out of us. It was Dick Cheney who groomed those fears, then exploited them to strong-arm our entire country into gladly surrendering our rights and our laws and, with them, the soul of our country, which has stained our integrity throughout the world. It is Dick Cheney who is a war criminal. It is Dick Cheney who is guilty of myriad impeachable offenses, yet is so powerful that not even the laws of the land dare touch him. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Make no mistake: When Joe Biden referred to “the eight most-dreaded words in the English language,” he wasn’t kidding.
Which makes it all the more important that we pay attention — really pay attention — in the coming months and years because there is nothing to stop the force that is Dick Cheney, save the overwhelming protest of the American people, all the way to Capitol Hill. And even that may not be enough. Remember these things, come election day, when the voting machines malfunction, and the ballots are all screwed up, and hundreds of thousands of people discover their names have been deleted from the lists of registered voters, and the lines at *certain* polls are 8 hours long. Remember this during the months after inauguration, as you discover that — despite all the campaign rhetoric and promises — our leaders on Capitol Hill still seem incapacitated to doing “the right thing.”
Ain’t no election gonna change the fact that some of the most powerful people in the world bow to the sound of those words, and will long continue to do so, even when the words have been reduced to only five: Dick Cheney’s on the phone.
CBC News Documentary: Dick Cheney: the Unauthorized Biography