Posts Tagged Libya
What’s coming out of the Obama administration on its intentions re targeted killing v indefinite detention of suspects is getting more complicated. Obama, in a stirring defense of empire disguised as something else, told the world two weeks ago at the United Nations
The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region.
Obama’s May 23 speech, the one he was forced to delay because of the Guantanamo prison hunger strike, Obama set out broader parameters for those who could be targeted — as he argued, legally — for killing. Obama defended broad executive authority to kill targets, perhaps even more widely than he has previously. His speech amounted to an argument for, and announcement of a permanent infrastructure for assassination. As the McClatchy newspaper put it,
“In every previous speech, interview and congressional testimony, Obama and his top aides have said that drone strikes are restricted to killing confirmed ‘senior operational leaders of al Qaida and associated forces’ plotting imminent violent attacks against the United States.
“But Obama dropped that wording Thursday, making no reference at all to senior operational leaders. While saying that the United States is at war with al Qaida and its associated forces, he used a variety of descriptions of potential targets, from ‘those who want to kill us’ and ‘terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat’ to ‘all potential terrorist targets.’”
Saturday U.S. forces grabbed one of the FBI’s most-wanted suspects in Libya, abu Anas al-Libi. The Libyan government, which the U.S. installed through its 2011 “humanitarian intervention” may or may not have been involved, but is now raising protests that the rights of tge prisoner are not being respected, because he’s being interrogated on a U.S. ship away from the reach of Libyan, or international, law.
The Associated Press asks, Did Obama swap ‘black’ detention sites for ships? saying, “Questioning suspected terrorists aboard U.S. warships in international waters is President Obama’s answer to the Bush administration detention policies that candidate Obama promised to end.” Further
“It appears to be an attempt to use assertion of law of war powers to avoid constraint and safeguards in the criminal justice system,” said Hina Shamsi, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union and the director of the civil rights organization’s national security project. “I am very troubled if this is the pattern that the administration is setting for itself.”
John Bellinger in Lawfare notes
Because Article 22 of the Third Geneva Convention states that prisoners of war “may be interned only in premises located on land,” Obama Administration lawyers must have concluded that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to Warsame and al-Libi, or that they are not POWs, or that they are not being interned.
Whatever the mix of targeted killing, indefinite detention, or rendition-like interrogations in international waters, the course set by the Obama administration of using “all elements of our power” remains one running counter to international law and due judicial process.
The Daily Telegraph reports that the New York Public Defender’s Office is demanded that, after 3 days, al-Libi, who has already been indicted on charges, get counsel and be brought immediately before a judge, as the law provides. But,
The first round of interrogations, expected to last several weeks according to US newspapers, will be to extract intelligence. Only after that will he be offered a lawyer and questioned in connection with the case for which he has already been charged.
The process here, of targeted killing, indefinite detention, now mixed with a variant of rendition where the subject is hidden from the legal system while the FBI has a go — is no better, but perhaps more sophisticated, than what the Bush regime practiced.
Note: on October 14, BBC reports that al-Libi is in New York City, to be formally charged in federal court.
The political terrain is changing hourly in the Middle East, with governments responding to the peoples’ uprising in different ways. But we’re seeing one constant: the U.S. at every point pushes its own interests, regardless of the status of the peoples’ rights.
World Can’t Wait exists to “stop the crimes of our government.” So we should be vigilant. We’ve pointed out Washington’s deep and long support for repressive regimes across the region, including Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Saudi Arabia & Bahrain, and also the huge amount of military and political support given to Israel by successive U.S. administrations. In Bahrain, where the U.S. has a strategic base, Hillary Clinton weakly, and hypocritically, defended the protesters’ rights (only days after witnessing prominent anti-war veteran Ray McGovern brutalized during a speech of hers in the US). As if she and the government she has long represented was unaware of what these regimes do to their people!
In Egypt, protesters showed the lethal tear gas canisters used against them by the government – labeled “Made in the USA.” These were just a small fraction of the overall budget of military aid given to Egypt by the US.
In Libya hundreds of people are being slaughtered in the streets by mercenaries. Though Qaddafi’s government has appeared more oppositional to the U.S., the U.S. reestablished full diplomatic relations with Libya, under pressure from U.S. oil companies. Military aid followed. But in the wake of the absolutely righteous upsurge of the people against Qaddafi’s repression, will the U.S. take the opportunity to install a more compliant government to its own interests? U.S. military intervention will do no more good in Libya than it’s done elsewhere… which is to say: it will be a disaster for the people, but good for U.S. interests in holding onto strategic oil and territory.
In Pakistan, there’s news of the first drone strike in a month, this one killing civilians: US Drone Strikes Kill 15 in Pakistan.
The Washington Post reported yesterday on the last years of U.S. drone bombings:
Despite a major escalation in the number of unmanned Predator strikes being carried out under the Obama administration, data from government and independent sources indicate that the number of high-ranking militants being killed as a result has either slipped or barely increased. Even more generous counts – which indicate that the CIA killed as many as 13 “high-value targets” – suggest that the drone program is hitting senior operatives only a fraction of the time.
While the CIA contends they’ve killed just 2 civilians, the article goes on to say:
The New America Foundation estimates that at least 607 people were killed in 2010, which would mean that a single year has accounted for nearly half of the number of deaths since 2004, when the program began. Overall, the foundation estimates that 32 of those killed could be considered “militant leaders” of al-Qaeda or the Taliban, or about 2 percent.
Glenn Greenwald looks at the CIA’s role in Pakistan. In This week in winning hearts and minds, he describes Raymond Davis, the ex-Special Forces, current CIA operative held in Pakistan for personally killing 4 Pakistanis in an incident on the street, and:
The State Department first said he worked for the consulate, not the embassy, which would make him subject to weaker immunity rights than diplomats enjoy (State now says that its original claim was a “mistake” and that Davis worked for the embassy). President Obama then publicly demanded the release of what he absurdly called ”our diplomat in Pakistan”; when he was arrested, Davis ”was carrying a 9mm gun and 75 bullets, bolt cutters, a GPS unit, an infrared light, telescope, a digital camera, an air ticket, two mobile phones and a blank cheque.”
There’s a major diplomatic crisis over Davis between Pakistan, and competing forces within its government, and the U.S. government. Greenwald describes the complexity for the U.S.:
There’s the gross hypocrisy of the U.S. State Department invoking lofty “rule-of-law” and diplomacy principles under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations — the very same State Department that just got caught systematically violating that convention when WikiLeaks cables revealed that U.S. “diplomats” were ordered to spy on U.N. officials and officials in other countries. Then there’s the delusional notion — heard mostly from progressives with romanticized images of the State Department — that WikiLeaks’ release of diplomatic cables was terrible because it’s wrong to undermine “diplomacy” with leaks, since the State Department (unlike the Big, Bad Pentagon) is devoted to Good, Humane causes of facilitating peace. As this episode illustrates, there’s no separation among the various arms of the U.S. Government; they all are devoted to the same end and simply use different means to accomplish it (when the U.S. Government is devoted to war, “diplomatic” functions are used to bolster the war, as Colin Powell can tell you).
These crises can help sort out the interests of the governments from the interests of the people. In supporting the courageous people across the Middle East who are fighting repression, we are challenged to look at our own government. I come back to the Not in Our Name Pledge of Resistance:
…Not in our name
will you wage endless war
there can be no more deaths
no more transfusions
of blood for oil…
Last week, I posted this photo of masses of Egyptians in Tahrir Square in late January 2011 with the question, “Now do you know what we were talking about?”
I sent the message to tens of thousands of supporters of World Can’t Wait, established in 2005 as The World Can’t Wait – Drive Out the Bush Regime. The photo and one line got a lot of response.
Almost half the response amounted to “yes — we knew what you meant then, and we’re with you!” Some people didn’t recognize the photo, or guessed that I was calling for a new movement to “drive out” the current president. One, who signed the Call to Drive out the Bush Regime online in 2007, announced she is Republican, and wanted no more mail from me.
So, for you all to whom the message was not clear, here’s what that photo is about:
Early 2005 was a time when people in this country who cared about basic justice and rights of the people were thinking of leaving because George W. had been selected as president, again. Why should 4 more long years have to pass with him as president, when that was so clearly against the interests of people in this country, not to mention the rest of the world?
About 40,000 people signed the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime online. Clearly, the idea was appealing. But people asked, what does “drive out” mean? Some asserted that World Can’t Wait really, covertly, meant there had to be an all-out revolution to force Bush from office; that being impossible, they argued, we weren’t going to succeed. Others could only conceptualize a movement utilizing the mechanism of impeachment, gaining critical mass in the Congress by winning over Democrats to lead it.
Here’s what we said in the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime:
There is a way. We are talking about something on a scale that can really make a huge change in this country and in the world. We need more than fighting Bush’s outrages one at a time, constantly losing ground to the whole onslaught. We must, and can, aim to create a political situation where the Bush regime’s program is repudiated, where Bush himself is driven from office, and where the whole direction he has been taking society is reversed. We, in our millions, must and can take responsibility to change the course of history.
Driving out Bush & Cheney would not have been easy. Clearly, it ended up being beyond the capacity of a great many honest, determined people who had right on our side. But the idea of a mass movement of people independent of the Republican & Democratic parties, would have begun with people taking to the streets, and staying there for a prolonged period, with growing momentum.
World Can’t Wait and many anti-war leaders, including Cindy Sheehan, organized for several of the Bush years to get that sort of thing started. We tried to find all those people who had been in the street, especially on February 15, 2003, when 15 million around the world — including probably one million in New York City — massed against the coming invasion of Iraq. We knew that one day of protest was not enough, and also that what can happen once, could happen again.
Last week, as mass protests moved to Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, Libya and now Wisconsin, I think a great many people are thinking more deeply about what good street protest does. It’s really the only thing that’s ever made a government take notice, back off, re-think its actions. It’s the only thing that brings out the true nature of a government. And of course, yes, as in the case of Libya right now, unleash desperate brutality toward the people.
But that visible protest is a necessary factor for change.
Chris Floyd has been thinking about this. Worldcantwait.net often posts his thoughtful blog pieces from Empire Burlesque. This one, Kairos in Cairo: Seizing the Moment of Moral Courage goes back to February 15, 2003, and considers what might have kept the U.S./U.K. alliance from being able to attack Iraq. It’s worth reading as a whole. To whet your appetite:
What if we, like the Egyptians, had gotten in the way of business as usual, and brought more and more pressure to bear on the system, forcing the issue of aggressive war on the public consciousness, unavoidably, day after day — and by this, as in Egypt, forcing officials of the system to declare where they stood?
So, where do we stand now?