Speaking truth to power-Jimmy Carter


Former President Jimmy Carter

Former President Jimmy Carter

I admire people who stick to their principles, and former President Jimmy Carter is one of those.  He has my deepest respect for the positions he takes, no matter how controversial or unpopular they are.  He came out in a NYT editorial to talk about human rights and the US government and what he writes today is the same thing he said when he was president 36 years ago.  However, many of his remarks are directed towards a Democratic administration that has mimicked its GOP predecessor in almost all aspects when it comes to citizenship and human rights.

Fortunately for many of us who believe in what Carter wrote and appears below, he supposedly will address the Democratic Convention.  What he will say this observer doesn’t know, but I certainly hope it’s the exact same message that appears below.  I can’t think of a better place to throw down the gauntlet to the Democrats to put the brakes on the slide towards abandonment of civil/human rights and I can think of no person with more integrity to say so than Carter.

THE United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.

Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.

While the country has made mistakes in the past, the widespread abuse of human rights over the last decade has been a dramatic change from the past. With leadership from the United States, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 as “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” This was a bold and clear commitment that power would no longer serve as a cover to oppress or injure people, and it established equal rights of all people to life, liberty, security of person, equal protection of the law and freedom from torture, arbitrary detention or forced exile.

The declaration has been invoked by human rights activists and the international community to replace most of the world’s dictatorships with democracies and to promote the rule of law in domestic and global affairs. It is disturbing that, instead of strengthening these principles, our government’s counterterrorism policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the declaration’s 30 articles, including the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Recent legislation has made legal the president’s right to detain a person indefinitely on suspicion of affiliation with terrorist organizations or “associated forces,” a broad, vague power that can be abused without meaningful oversight from the courts or Congress (the law is currently being blocked by a federal judge). This law violates the right to freedom of expression and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty, two other rights enshrined in the declaration.

In addition to American citizens’ being targeted for assassination or indefinite detention, recent laws have canceled the restraints in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to allow unprecedented violations of our rights to privacy through warrantless wiretapping and government mining of our electronic communications. Popular state laws permit detaining individuals because of their appearance, where they worship or with whom they associate.

Despite an arbitrary rule that any man killed by drones is declared an enemy terrorist, the death of nearby innocent women and children is accepted as inevitable. After more than 30 airstrikes on civilian homes this year in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has demanded that such attacks end, but the practice continues in areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that are not in any war zone. We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.

These policies clearly affect American foreign policy. Top intelligence and military officials, as well as rights defenders in targeted areas, affirm that the great escalation in drone attacks has turned aggrieved families toward terrorist organizations, aroused civilian populations against us and permitted repressive governments to cite such actions to justify their own despotic behavior.

Meanwhile, the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, now houses 169 prisoners. About half have been cleared for release, yet have little prospect of ever obtaining their freedom. American authorities have revealed that, in order to obtain confessions, some of the few being tried (only in military courts) have been tortured by waterboarding more than 100 times or intimidated with semiautomatic weapons, power drills or threats to sexually assault their mothers. Astoundingly, these facts cannot be used as a defense by the accused, because the government claims they occurred under the cover of “national security.” Most of the other prisoners have no prospect of ever being charged or tried either.

At a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe, the United States should be strengthening, not weakening, basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends.

As concerned citizens, we must persuade Washington to reverse course and regain moral leadership according to international human rights norms that we had officially adopted as our own and cherished throughout the years.

 

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The good news is America can now withdraw from Afghanistan


The reason is the Taliban admit they cannot win the war against the American forces and they are fed up with their alliance with al-Qaida, that is if you believe the word coming from some sources in the Taliban movement. I don’t know why anyone would think that a less than third world country could stand militarily with the largest, strongest military in the world, the Russian war notwithstanding, unless you believed in miracles.  With this admission coming from the Taliban, and I submit they’ve conceded defeat even before the war began back in 2001, the US, if it’s true to its mission of ridding the country of the Taliban and al-Qaida, has a golden opportunity  to end the conflict and withdraw honorably while getting the Taliban and the Karzai government to come to peaceful terms.  Unfortunately, the US’ track record of taking advantage of opportunities offered them by their opponents is less than sterling.

One of the Taliban‘s most senior commanders has admitted the insurgents cannot win the war in Afghanistan and that capturing Kabul is “a very distant prospect”, obliging them to seek a settlement with other political forces in the country.

In a startlingly frank interview in Thursday’s New Statesman, the commander – described as a Taliban veteran, a confidant of the leadership, and a former Guantánamo inmate – also uses the strongest language yet from a senior figure to distance the Afghan rebels from al-Qaida.

“At least 70% of the Taliban are angry at al-Qaida. Our people consider al-Qaida to be a plague that was sent down to us by the heavens,” the commander says. “To tell the truth, I was relieved at the death of Osama [bin Laden]. Through his policies, he destroyed Afghanistan. If he really believed in jihad he should have gone to Saudi Arabia and done jihad there, rather than wrecking our country.”

“The Taliban capturing Kabul is a very distant prospect. Any Taliban leader expecting to be able to capture Kabul is making a grave mistake. Nevertheless, the leadership also knows that it cannot afford to acknowledge this weakness. To do so would undermine the morale of Taliban personnel. The leadership knows the truth – that they cannot prevail over the power they confront,” Mawlvi (the Taliban senior commander) says.

As a result, he says that the Taliban has had to shelve its dream of re-establishing the Islamic emirate it set up when it was in power from 1996 to 2001. “Any side involved in a conflict like this has decided to fight for power. If they fall short of achieving national power, they have to settle for functioning as an organised party within the country,” he admits.

He is scathing about President Hamid Karzai, who the Taliban has consistently derided as a US puppet. “There is little point in talking to Kabul. Real authority rests with the Americans,” he says. “The only other serious political force in Afghanistan is that of the Northern Alliance” – a Tajik-led coalition that led the resistance to Taliban rule and is now a powerful player in Kabul.

That sounds like nothing short of capitulation and America should jump at the chance to embrace it, negotiate and get out.  Campaign rhetoric most likely will make chances of that happening until after the elections, but whoever the winner is in November, his first priority should be getting America out of a quagmire it’s enemy has said it can’t win and with whom it can easily settle.  That the world wide community is fixated on the horrific video taped execution of a woman by a “Taliban” member, who most likely was really a family member of the victim engaged in an honor killing (have we ever maintained forces in a country because of the honor killings of some of that country’s citizens?) would really serve an injustice to the people in the Taliban movement who are clearly signalling their willingness to stand down from hostilities with American forces.  The pessimism in me anticipates seeing  more of that kind of distraction in the international media, away from this peace offering, in order to  prolong the Afghan war.

 

Afghan Civilians Are Likely Targets


Glen Greenwald in one of his articles asks who is this Lara Dadkhah whose editorial appears in a recent edition of the New York Times in which she says

American and NATO military leaders — worried by Taliban propaganda claiming that air strikes have killed an inordinate number of civilians, and persuaded by “hearts and minds” enthusiasts that the key to winning the war is the Afghan population’s goodwill — have largely relinquished the strategic advantage of American air dominance.

So in a modern refashioning of the obvious — that war is harmful to civilian populations — the United States military has begun basing doctrine on the premise that dead civilians are harmful to the conduct of war. The trouble is, no past war has ever supplied compelling proof of that claim.

In Marja, American and Afghan troops have shown great skill in routing the Taliban occupiers. But news reports indicate that our troops under heavy attack have had to wait an hour or more for air support, so that insurgents could be positively identified. “We didn’t come to Marja to destroy it, or to hurt civilians,” a Marine officer told reporters after waiting 90 minutes before the Cobra helicopters he had requested showed up with their Hellfire missiles. He’s right that the goal is not to kill bystanders or destroy towns, but an overemphasis on civilian protection is now putting American troops on the defensive in what is intended to be a major offensive.

There is also little to indicate that the “hearts and minds” campaign has resulted in the population’s cooperation, especially in the all-important area of human intelligence. Afghans can be expected to cooperate with American forces only if they feel safe to do so — when we take permanent control of an area. Obviously, this involves defeating the enemy. With NATO intelligence services recently noting that the Taliban still have a “shadow government” in 33 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, it’s hard to say we’re close to accomplishing that feat. Just last month, the Taliban set off a series of bombs in the heart of Kabul; the insurgents, it appears, no longer need to winter in Pakistan.

It is that realization that the Taliban controls a majority of Afghani territory that has forced Hamid Karzai, the US installed president to reach out to them and attempt to bring them into his government; it was this fact on the ground that had the US Defense Secretary say in a visit to Afghanistan that the Taliban are a part of the fabric of that country, it is that reality that until recently had the US attempting to negotiate with the Taliban as well.  In a Miscellany101 article earlier this week, we linked to a story that said the US sought to ally itself with the number 2 man in the Taliban hierarchy but had their move countered by Pakistani intelligence which it seems is now able to insert itself in the best interest of the United States…..go figure.  Dadkhah still has it wrong however when she/he(?) somehow implies the US is more concerned with civilian casualties than its own forces.  America has had unrestricted access over the skies of Pakistan and Afghanistan with drone aircraft and missiles of all types and descriptions, intermingled with the grisly deaths of civilians that occur at the hands of soldiers on the ground, and if Dadkhah has any illusions NATO/US forces are concerned with civilian casualties, then this article should put those rumors to rest.

…..NATO took the exact opposite approach with Sunday’s Marjah killings, revising their story to insist the killings were not an equipment error, but were part of a deliberate US targeting of a house full of civilians.

The initial story on Sunday was that the US troops tried to fire the rockets at suspected militants resisting the US-led invasion of the town. NATO claimed the rocket malfunctioned and veered 300 meters off course, destroying a house full of women and children…….NATO announced today that the HiMARS did not malfunction, and the missile hit the house deliberately. Officials are now suggesting that there may have been militants in or near the house, though there appears to be no evidence of that and only civilians were killed in the house’s destruction.

So it would appear people are heeding Ms. Dhadkha’s advice after all and prosecuting this war full speed ahead, civilian casualties be damned.  The other issue however is how does someone so well unknown get to put such a provocative op-ed in such a prestigious newspaper as the New York Times?  Working for a defense contractor helps, no doubt.

Killing Peace


By capturing a Taliban military official who expressed interest in negotiating with the President of Afghanistan AND the Americans, the US pretty much guaranteed their continued presence in the region for years to come. It couldn’t come at a worse time, what with NATO forces engaged in very vicious fighting in some areas of Afghanistan and racking up heavy civilian casualties, capturing Abdul Ghani Baradar and in essence making him a martyr, although he was captured alive, will underscore how allied forces can’t be trusted and by extension, the Karazai government as well. Pretty dumb move.  What’s worse is the excuse given for the capture of a man who wanted to cooperate with his perceived enemies.

Pakistan it seems felt left out of the negotiation process going on between the Taliban, Karzai and the US so they interjected themselves, read that sabotaged, into the peace process.  To add insult to injury, it appears the US doesn’t mind that they were shot in the back by an “ally”.  It’s clear Afghanistan is going to be Obama’s war no matter how many terms he serves.  It is another example of how America has ineptly handled opportunities to end  so many times in this euphemistically called ‘war on terror’.  They seem neither interested in ending the war or the terror it brings.

Why Are We Still In Afghanistan?


In an amazing bit of candor, but not for American consumption it is important to note, US Defense Secretary had this to say about what’ s going on in Afghanistan

the Taliban (are) part of the “political fabric” of Afghanistan, but said any future role for it would depend on insurgents laying down their weapons.

“The question is whether they are prepared to play a legitimate role in the political fabric of Afghanistan going forward, meaning participating in elections, meaning not assassinating local officials and killing families,” Dr Gates said in Pakistan yesterday.

“The question is what do the Taliban want to make out of Afghanistan? When they tried before, we saw before what they wanted to make and it was a desert, culturally and every other way.”

The above statement seems to be an admission that what’s taking place is a civil war in Afghanistan within the Taliban movement between who are going to forsake armed struggle versus those who are willing to work towards political solutions to the problems of Afghanistan.  The president, Hamid Karzai has made similar statements over the years of the political viability of the Taliban movement and has even tried to incorporate many followers of that movement into his government.  The kicker for this observer is that many people on the outside looking in seem to think there’s not much difference between a Karzai run government and its predecessor the Taliban, except for the presence of an American occupying force propping up the latter.  Otherwise issues of intertribal warfare persist, the economic blight affecting the country and the status of women…..something always used to bring about change, but usually in the wrong direction, remain the same under Karzai.

Why then do American forces remain in Afghanistan?  There’s nothing in Gates’ comments which would legitimize a US military presence in Afghanistan, and especially an escalation of forces the likes Obama suggests is necessary.  It would appear the more the US attempts to rout Taliban forces by force of arms, the more precarious Karzai’s position becomes in Afghan society, which is no doubt why he, Karzai, is appealing to the Taliban himself without the good blessings of American policy makers in his attempts to bring Taliban under his wing.  What you have in Afghanistan therefore are two conflicting ideologies that are mutually exclusive; a military foreign occupier fighting a nationalistic movement that has been embraced by the government put into power by that military authority.  This scenario looks even more difficult than what the Russians faced during their occupation of that country.  The answer is not in escalation but rather in de-escalation, and for all those who say it’s about capturing OBL, I would remind them some of the biggest names in the al-Qaida hierarchy were caught not by US troops but by the CIA.