Jun 012013
 

Global Research
David Ray Griffin

Osama bin Laden Responsible for the 9/11 Attacks?  Where is the Evidence?

The idea that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attacks has been an article of faith for public officials and the mainstream media. Calling it an “article of faith” points to two features of this idea. On the one hand, no one in these circles publicly challenges this idea.

On the other hand, as I pointed out at length in two of my books – 9/11 Contradictions1 and The New Pearl Harbor Revisited,2 no good evidence has ever been publicly presented to support it.

Colin Powell’s Withdrawn Promise Two weeks after 9/11, Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking to Tim Russert on Meet the Press, said that he expected “in the near future . . . to put out . . . a document that will describe quite clearly the evidence that we have linking [bin Laden] to this attack.”3

Powell reversed himself, however, at a press conference with President Bush in the White House Rose Garden the next morning, saying that, although the government had information that left no question of bin Laden’s responsibility, “most of it is classified.”4 According to Seymour Hersh, citing officials from both the CIA and the Department of Justice, the real reason for the reversal was a “lack of solid information.”5

This was the week that Bush, after demanding that the Taliban turn over bin Laden, refused their request for evidence that bin Laden had been behind the attacks.6 A senior Taliban official, after the US attack on Afghanistan had begun, said: “We have asked for proof of Osama’s involvement, but they have refused. Why?”7 Hersh’s answer was that they had no proof.

Tony Blair’s Weak Document

The task of providing such proof was taken up by Bush’s chief ally in the “war on terror,” British Prime Minister Tony Blair. On October 4, 2001, Blair made public a document entitled: “Responsibility for the Terrorist Atrocities in the United States.” Listing “clear conclusions reached by the government,” it stated: “Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the terrorist network which he heads, planned and carried out the atrocities on 11 September 2001.” Blair’s report, however, began by saying: “This document does not purport to provide a prosecutable case against Osama Bin Laden in a court of law.”8 Although the case was not good enough to go to court, Blair seemed to be saying, it was good enough to go to war.

The weakness in Blair’s report, in any event, was noted the next day by the BBC, which said: “There is no direct evidence in the public domain linking Osama Bin Laden to the 11 September attacks. At best the evidence is circumstantial.”9

The FBI’s Surprising Statement

What does our own FBI say? Here is a surprising but little-known fact, because it has scarcely been reported in the mainstream media: The FBI’s “Most Wanted Terrorist” webpage on “Usama bin Laden” does not list the 9/11 attacks as one of the crimes for which he is wanted. It does list bombings in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi as terrorist acts for which he is wanted. But it makes no mention of 9/11.10 In 2006, Rex Tomb, then the FBI’s chief of investigative publicity, was asked why not. He replied: “The reason why 9/11 is not mentioned on Usama Bin Laden’s Most Wanted page is because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11.”11

After this story started flying around the Internet and was even covered by a TV station in Louisiana,12 Dan Eggen tried to downplay its significance in an August 2006 Washington Post article entitled “Bin Laden, Most Wanted For Embassy Bombings?”13 Complaining about “conspiracy theorists” who claimed that “the lack of a Sept. 11 reference [on the FBI's "Most Wanted" webpage for bin Laden] suggests that the connection to al-Qaeda is uncertain,” Eggen quoted the explanation offered by a former US attorney, who said that the FBI could not appropriately “put up a wanted picture where no formal charges had been filed.”

But that explanation, while true, simply pushes the issue back a step to this question: Why have such charges not been filed? Rex Tomb’s fuller statement, which Eggen failed to mention, had answered this question the previous June, saying:

The FBI gathers evidence. Once evidence is gathered, it is turned over to the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice then decides whether it has enough evidence to present to a federal grand jury. In the case of the 1998 United States Embassies being bombed, Bin Laden has been formally indicted and charged by a grand jury. He has not been formally indicted and charged in connection with 9/11 because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11.14

The 9/11 Commission

What about the 9/11 Commission? Its report gave the impression that it was in possession of solid evidence of bin Laden’s guilt. But the Commission’s co-chairs, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, undermined this impression in their follow-up book, which they subtitled: “The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission.”15 (I discussed this book at length in Chapter 2 of my 2007 book, Debunking 9/11 Debunking.16)

As the endnotes for The 9/11 Commission Report reveal, whenever the Commission referred to evidence of bin Ladin’s responsibility for the 9/11 attacks, the Commission was always referring to CIA-provided information, which had (presumably) been elicited during interrogations of al-Qaeda operatives. By far the most important of these operatives was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, generally called simply “KSM,” who has been called the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. The Commission, for example, wrote:

Bin Ladin . . . finally decided to give the green light for the 9/11 operation sometime in late 1998 or early 1999. . . . Bin Ladin also soon selected four individuals to serve as suicide operatives. . . . Atta – whom Bin Ladin chose to lead the group – met with Bin Ladin several times to receive additional instructions, including a preliminary list of approved targets: the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the U.S. Capitol.17

The note for each of these statements says: “interrogation of KSM.”18

Kean and Hamilton, however, reported that they had no success in “obtaining access to star witnesses in custody . . . , most notably Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.”19 Besides not being allowed to interview these witnesses, Commission members were not even permitted to observe the interrogations through one-way glass or to talk to the interrogators.20 Therefore, Kean and Hamilton complained: “We . . . had no way of evaluating the credibility of detainee information. How could we tell if someone such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed . . . was telling us the truth?”21

An NBC “deep background” report in 2008 pointed out an additional problem: KSM and the other al-Qaeda leaders had been subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques,” i.e., torture, and it is now widely acknowledged that statements elicited by torture lack credibility. “At least four of the operatives whose interrogation figured in the 9/11 Commission Report,” NBC pointed out, “have claimed that they told interrogators critical information as a way to stop being ‘tortured.’” NBC then quoted Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, as saying: “Most people look at the 9/11 Commission Report as a trusted historical document. If their conclusions were supported by information gained from torture, . . . their conclusions are suspect.”22

The “Bin Laden Confession Tapes”

As we have seen, neither the 9/11 Commission, the Bush-Cheney White House, the FBI, the British government, nor the 9/11 Commission provided good evidence that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Many people, however, have assumed that the question of his responsibility was settled by the existence of videotapes and audiotapes in which he himself confessed to the attacks. There are, however, good reasons to believe that these so-called confession tapes are fakes. I will illustrate this point in terms of the two best-known videotapes of this nature.

The “Jalalabad Video” Released December 13, 2001: The first and most famous of the “Osama bin Laden confession video tapes” was released by the Pentagon on December 13, 2001. It had purportedly been made on November 9, 2001, after which it was allegedly found by US forces in a private home in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. In this video, an Osama bin Laden figure is seen talking about the 9/11 attacks with a visiting sheikh. During the course of the conversation, the bin Laden figure boasts about the success of the attacks, saying that he had planned them.23 Both US and British officials claimed that this tape left no doubt about bin Laden’s guilt.24

Stories in both the Canadian and British media, however, raised questions about the tape’s authenticity. These stories, besides pointing out the existence of the technical ability to create fake video tapes, also mentioned the suspicion of some people that the bin Laden figure was not Osama bin Laden himself.

A BBC News report said: “Washington calls it the ‘smoking gun’ that puts Bin Laden’s guilt beyond doubt, but many in the Arab world believe the home video of the al-Qaeda chief is a fake.”25 This report was, in fact, entitled, “Could the Bin Laden Video Be a Fake?”

This question was also raised in Canada by CBC News, which pointed out that some people had “suggested the Americans hired someone to pretend to be the exiled Saudi.”26

This question was raised even more insistently in a Guardian story with the title, “US Urged to Detail Origin of Tape.” Reporting “growing doubt in the Muslim world about the authenticity of the film,” writer Steven Morris said:

The White House yesterday came under pressure to give more details of the video which purports to show Osama bin Laden admitting his part in the September 11 attacks.27

Morris, pointing out that the White House had provided no details about how the Pentagon came to be in possession of the tape, added:

According to US officials the tape was found in a house in Jalalabad, eastern Afghanistan, and handed to the Pentagon by an unnamed person or group. . . . But for many the explanation is too convenient. Some opponents of the war theorise that the Bin Laden in the film was a look-alike.

Morris then quoted one such opponent in Pakistan, who said: “This videotape is not authentic. The Americans made it up after failing to get any evidence against Osama.”

Morris also cited Bob Crabtree, the editor of Computer Video magazine, who explained that it was impossible to determine whether the video was authentic without more details of its source, adding: “The US seems simply to have asked the world to trust them that it is genuine.”28

This skepticism about the authenticity of this “Jalalabad video” was based on sound reasons. For one thing, this video’s bin Laden figure appeared too heavy and healthy, compared with the bin Laden who made the last of the undoubtedly authentic bin Laden videos, which was made sometime in 2001 between November 16 (on which occurred an event mentioned on the tape) and December 27 (the date on which the tape was released). In this post-November 16 video, bin Laden’s beard was white, he had a “gaunt, frail appearance,” and his “left arm hung limply by his side while he gesticulated with his right.”29 This immobile left arm, Dr. Sanjay Gupta observed on CNN, suggested that bin Laden had suffered a stroke, adding that this plus a “frosting of the appearance” suggested that bin Laden was in the final stages of kidney failure.30

But in the “Jalalabad video,” which was reportedly made at about the same time (being dated November 9 and released December 13), the bin Laden figure was heavier and also darker, in both skin and beard color; his nose had a different shape;31 and his hands were shorter and heavier than those of Osama bin Laden as seen in undoubtedly authentic videos.32

Still another problem is that, whereas bin Laden was left-handed, the man in the “Jalalabad video” wrote with his right hand. Although it might be thought that this was because his left arm was immobile, the bin Laden figure in this video was easily able to lift his left arm above his head.33

If this video was made on November 9, as claimed, then it would have been made at most only a few weeks before the post-November 16 video. It is very hard to believe that the heavy, dark-skinned, healthy-looking man with a dark beard could have, within two or three weeks, turned into the pale, gaunt, white-bearded, man seen in the post-November 16 video.

If one accepts the Jalalabad video as authentic, one not only has to accept these radical changes in bin Laden’s physical appearance; one must also accept a complete change in his statements about 9/11. In the previous weeks, he had repeatedly – on September 12, 16, 17, and 28 – stated that he had had nothing to do with the attacks.34 In the September 28 statement, he had even declared:

I have already said that I am not involved in the 11 September attacks in the United States. As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. I had no knowledge of these attacks, nor do I consider the killing of innocent women, children and other humans as an appreciable act. Islam strictly forbids causing harm to innocent women, children and other people. Such a practice is forbidden even in the course of a battle. . . . [W]e are against the American system, not against its people, whereas in these attacks, the common American people have been killed.35

Is it likely that he would have made such statements if he himself had authorized the attacks and thereby the killing of innocents?

Whatever be one’s opinion about that, the bin Laden figure in the “Jalalabad video” made other statements that Osama bin Laden himself would surely not have made. For example, he said:

[W]e calculated in advance the number of casualties from the enemy who would be killed based on the position of the tower. . . . [D]ue to my experience in this field, I was thinking that the fire from the gas in the plane would melt the iron structure of the building and collapse the area where the plane hit and all the floors above it only. This is all that we had hoped for.36

But in light of the real bin Laden’s “experience in the field” as a building contractor, he would have known that high-rise buildings are framed with steel, not iron. Even more important, he would have known that the buildings’ support columns – whether made of steel or iron – would not have been melted by the “fire from the gas in the plane.” Why? Because he would have known, on the one hand, that a building fire, even if fed by jet-fuel (which is essentially kerosene), could not, even under the most ideal conditions, have risen above 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (1,000 degrees Celsius). And he would have known, on the other hand, that iron and steel do not begin to melt until they are heated to a temperature far higher than that: to almost 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit (1,540 degrees Celsius). The real bin Laden, therefore, would not have expected any iron or steel to melt.

A final reason to consider the “Jalalabad video” a fake is that bin Laden experts have declared it to such. When Dr. Bruce Lawrence, a Duke University history professor widely considered the country’s leading academic bin Laden expert,37 was asked what he thought about this video, he said, bluntly: “It’s bogus.” Some friends of his in the US Department of Homeland Security assigned to work “on the 24/7 bin Laden clock,” he added, “also know it’s bogus.”38

General Hamid Gul, former head of Pakistan’s ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), suggested that the man in the video was an “Osama bin Laden lookalike.”39

Former Foreign Service officer Angelo Codevilla, after saying “[t]he guy just does not look like Osama,” added: “The fact that the video had been made for no self-evident purpose except perhaps to be found by the Americans should have raised suspicion.”40

A fourth expert opinion has been issued implicitly, it would seem, by the Department of Justice and its FBI. If they considered this “confession video” authentic, would they not consider it “hard evidence” of bin Laden’s responsibility for 9/11? They say, however, that they have no such evidence, so they must not consider this video authentic.

The “October Surprise Video of 2004: The other most famous of the “bin Laden confession tapes” is the video tape that was released on October 29, 2004, just before the presidential election between George W. Bush and John Kerry, leading to its being called “the October Surprise video.” In this one, for the first time, a bin Laden figure directly addressed the American people. The Associated Press, focusing on the most important aspect of the speaker’s message, entitled its story: “Bin Laden, in Statement to U.S. People, Says He Ordered Sept. 11 Attacks.”41 However, although the AP accepted the authenticity of the tape, there are serious reasons to doubt it.

A reason to be at least suspicious is the very fact that it appeared just four days before the presidential election and seemed designed to help Bush’s reelection – an assessment that was made even by CIA analysts.42 The video, moreover, evidently did help: Bush’s lead over Kerry in national polls increased right after it appeared,43 and both Bush and Kerry said that this tape was significantly responsible for Bush’s victory.44 Given the fact that this video would quite predictably help Bush win reelection, it would seem to have been issued by his friends, not his enemies.

There are also substantive reasons to doubt this tape’s authenticity, one of which is the speaker’s language. The clearly authentic bin Laden messages were filled with religious language. A bin Laden video released October 7, 2001, for example, began thus:

Praise be to God and we beseech Him for help and forgiveness. We seek refuge with the Lord of our bad and evildoing. He whom God guides is rightly guided . . . . I witness that there is no God but God and Mohammed is His slave and Prophet.45

Even though this talk as a whole had only 725 words, bin Laden referred to God (Allah) 20 times and to the prophet Mohammed 3 times. Likewise, his message of November 3, 2001, which contained 2,333 words, referred to God 35 times and to the prophet Mohammed 8 times.46 By contrast, the 2004 October Surprise video, which had almost the same number of words as the November 3 video, referred to God only 12 times. The only “Mohammad” mentioned, moreover, was Mohamed Atta.

Another substantive difference involved the type of causal analysis provided. Bin Laden’s clearly authentic messages had portrayed historical events as occurring only because they were caused, or at least allowed, by God. In his message of October 7, 2001, for example, he said: “God Almighty hit the United States. . . . He destroyed its greatest buildings.” Human agents were involved, to be sure, but they were successful only because “Almighty God . . . allowed them to destroy the United States.”47 In his message of November 3, likewise, bin Laden said that, if people are helped or harmed, it is always by “something that God has already preordained for [them].”48

The message on the 2004 confession video, however, reflected a worldview in which events can be understood through a causal analysis based on secular rationalism. “One of the most important things rational people do when calamities occur,” the lecturer asserted, “is to look for their causes so as to avoid them.” He himself, in analyzing “the [Iraq] war, its causes and consequences,” provided a causal analysis involving purely human actors: Bush, al-Qaeda, and the American people. Far from suggesting that everything is finally in the hands of God, he said to the American people: “Your security is in your own hands” – a statement that a devout Wahabi Muslim such as Osama bin Laden would surely have considered blasphemous.

Still another reason to doubt the authenticity of this 2004 video is that, although the speaker was addressing the American public, he spoke Arabic rather than English. This is strange, because Osama bin Laden was reportedly fluent in English, which he had started studying when he was 11 years old.49 A British journalist reported that, when he and bin Laden met in 1989, they conversed in English for 45 minutes.50 General Hamid Gul, speaking to United Press International in 2001, said: “I know bin Laden and his associates. They are graduates of the best universities and . . . speak impeccable English.51 If bin Laden spoke impeccable English, would he not have used it when speaking directly to the American people?52

Accordingly, this video does not, any more than the “Jalalabad video,” provide evidence that Osama bin Laden himself confessed to planning the 9/11 attacks.

Conclusion

I showed in a previous essay that, according to the best evidence presently available, Osama bin Laden has been dead for many years.53 In the present essay, I have shown that there is not even any good evidence for the claim that bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Accordingly, insofar as the justification for the continuation of the AfPak war is based on the fact that bin Laden in the region both before and after the 9/11 attacks, that justification would seem to be doubly baseless.

David Ray Griffin is the author of 36 books, nine of which are about 9/11. His most recent book is The Mysterious Collapse of World Trade Center 7: Why the Final Official Report about 9/11 Is Unscientific and False (Olive Branch, 2009). In 2008, he put out two books: The New Pearl Harbor: 9/11, the Cover-Up, and the Exposé (which was named a “Pick of the Week” by Publishers Weekly) and Osama bin Laden: Dead Or Alive? (which has generated considerable media coverage in England).

David Ray Griffin is professor emeritus at Claremont School of Theology and Claremont Graduate University. He is the author of The New Pearl Harbor – Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11 ,  The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions — A Critique of the Kean-Zelikow Report as well as Osama Bin Laden: Dead or Alive?

Notes

  1. 9/11 Contradictions: An Open Letter to Congress and the Press (Northampton: Olive Branch, 2008), Chap. 18, “Does the Government Have Hard Evidence of Bin Laden’s Responsibility?”
  2. The New Pearl Harbor Revisited: 9/11, the Cover-Up, and the Exposé (Northampton: Olive Branch, 2008). This book was named Publishers Weekly’s “Pick of the Week” on November 24, 2008 (http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6617001.html?industryid=47159).
  3. “Meet the Press,” NBC, September 23, 2001 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/specials/attacked/transcripts/nbctext092301.html).
  4. “Remarks by the President, Secretary of the Treasury O’Neill and Secretary of State Powell on Executive Order,” White House, September 24, 2001 (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010924-4.html).
  5. Seymour M. Hersh, “What Went Wrong: The C.I.A. and the Failure of American Intelligence,” New Yorker, October 1, 2001 (http://cicentre.com/Documents/DOC_Hersch_OCT_01.htm).
  6. “White House Warns Taliban: ‘We Will Defeat You,’” CNN, September 21, 2001 (http://archives.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/asiapcf/central/09/21/ret.afghan.taliban).
  7. Kathy Gannon, “Taliban Willing to Talk, But Wants U.S. Respect,” Associated Press, November 1, 2001 (http://nucnews.net/nucnews/2001nn/0111nn/011101nn.htm#300).
  8. Office of the Prime Minister, “Responsibility for the Terrorist Atrocities in the United States,” BBC News, October 4, 2001 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/1579043.stm).
  9. “The Investigation and the Evidence,” BBC News, October 5, 2001 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1581063.stm).
  10. Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Most Wanted Terrorists: Usama bin Laden” (http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/terrorists/terbinladen.htm).
  11. Ed Haas, “FBI says, ‘No Hard Evidence Connecting Bin Laden to 9/11′” Muckraker Report, June 6, 2006 (http://www.teamliberty.net/id267.html).
  12. “Bin Laden’s FBI Poster Omits Any 9/11 Connection,” KSLA 12 in Shreveport, Louisiana
    (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6443576002087829136).
  13. “Bin Laden, Most Wanted For Embassy Bombings?” Washington Post, August 28, 2006 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/27/AR2006082700687.html)
  14. Haas, “FBI says, ‘No Hard Evidence Connecting Bin Laden to 9/11.’”
  15. Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, with Benjamin Rhodes, Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006).
  16. David Ray Griffin, Debunking 9/11 Debunking: An Answer to Popular Mechanics and Other Defenders of the Official Conspiracy Theory, revised and updated edition (Northampton: Olive Branch, 2007). This book won a bronze medal in the 2008 Independent Publishers Book Awards.
  17. The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, authorized edition (New York: W. W. Norton, 2004), 149, 155, 166; henceforth 9/11CR.
  18. See 9/11CR Ch. 5, notes 16, 41, and 92.
  19. Kean and Hamilton, Without Precedent, 118.
  20. Ibid., 122-24.
  21. Ibid., 119. I have discussed this issue at greater length in Ch. 8, “9/11 Commission Falsehoods about Bin Laden, al-Qaeda, Pakistanis, and Saudis,” of The New Pearl Harbor Revisited.
  22. Robert Windrem and Victor Limjoco, “The 9/11 Commission Controversy,” Deep Background: NBC News Investigations, January 30, 2008 http://deepbackground.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/01/30/624314.aspx).
  23. “U.S. Releases Videotape of Osama bin Laden,” Department of Defense, December 13, 2001 (http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=3184); “Pentagon Releases Bin Laden Videotape: U.S. Officials Say Tape Links Him to Sept. 11 Attacks,” National Public Radio, December 13, 2001 http://www.npr.org/news/specials/response/investigation/011213.binladen.tape.html). The entire video can be viewed at this NPR Web page.
  24. See my book Osama bin Laden: Dead or Alive? (Northampton: Olive Branch [Interlink Books], 2009), 23-26.
  25. “Could the Bin Laden Video Be a Fake?” BBC News, December 14, 2001 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/1711288.stm).
  26. “‘Feeble’ to Claim Bin Laden Tape Fake: Bush,” CBC, December 14, 2001 (http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2001/12/14/bush_osama011214.html).
  27. Steven Morris, “US Urged to Detail Origin of Tape,” Guardian, December 15, 2001 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/dec/15/september11.afghanistan).
  28. Ibid.
  29. Toby Harnden, “US Casts Doubt on Bin Laden’s Latest Message,” Telegraph, December 27, 2001
  30. “Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Bin Laden Would Need Help if on Dialysis,” CNN, January 21, 2002
    (http://www.cnn.com/2002/HEALTH/01/21/gupta.otsc/index.html). For the tape, see “”Osama Bin Laden Tape Dezember [sic] 2001″ (http://www.myvideo.de/watch/3760193/Osama_Bin_Laden_Tape_Dezember_2001).
  31. For a nose comparison, see “Osama bin Laden Gets a Nose Job” (http://www.awitness.org/news/december_2001/osama_nose_job.html),
    or “Bruce Lawrence,” Radio Du Jour (http://www.radiodujour.com/people/lawrence_bruce).
  32. Compare his hands with bin Laden’s hand as shown in the post-November 16 video (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/1729882.stm).
  33. This can be seen in a portion of the Jalalabad video placed on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0FVeqCX6z8).
  34. For documentation and discussion, see Osama bin Laden: Dead or Alive? 27-29.
  35. “Interview with Usama bin Laden,” Ummat (Karachi), September 28, 2001
    http://www.robert-fisk.com/usama_interview_ummat.htm).
    Bin Laden’s statement about innocents repeated what he had said in an interview with John Miller of ABC News in 1998: “Our religion forbids us from killing innocent people such as women and children”
  36. “Transcript of Usama bin Laden Video Tape,” Department of Defense, December 13, 2001 (http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Dec2001/d20011213ubl.pdf).
  37. Bruce Lawrence is the editor of Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden (London and New York: Verso, 2005).
  38. Lawrence made these statements on February 16, 2007, during a radio interview conducted by Kevin Barrett of the University of Wisconsin at Madison. It can be heard at Radio Du Jour (http://www.radiodujour.com/people/lawrence_bruce).
  39. BBC News, “Tape ‘Proves Bin Laden’s Guilt,’” December 14, 2001 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/1708091.stm).
  40. Angelo M. Codevilla, “Osama bin Elvis,” American Spectator, March 2009 (http://spectator.org/archives/2009/03/13/osama-bin-elvis/print).
  41. Maggie Michael, “Bin Laden, in Statement to U.S. People, Says He Ordered Sept. 11 Attacks,” Associated Press, October 29, 2004 (http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/nation/terror/20041029-1423-binladentape.html).
  42. Ron Suskind, The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America’s Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006), 336.
  43. Philip Sherwell, “Bush Takes a Six-Point Lead After New Bin Laden Tape,” Telegraph, November 1, 2004 (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/1475515/Bush-takes-a-six-point-lead-after-new-bin-Laden-tape.html).
  44. “Kerry Blames Defeat on Bin Laden,” BBC News, January 31, 2005 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4222647.stm); “Bush Says Bin Laden Tape Aided Re-Election: Report,” Reuters, February 28, 2006 http://www.redorbit.com/news/politics/408991/bush_says_bin_laden_tape_aided_reelection_report/).
  45. “Bin Laden’s Warning: Full Text,” BBC News, October 7, 2001 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/1585636.stm).
  46. “BBC Transcript Of Osama Bin Laden Statement,” November 7, 2001 (http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO0111/S00049.htm).
  47. “Bin Laden’s Warning: Full Text.”
  48. “BBC Transcript Of Osama Bin Laden Statement.”
  49. See “In the Footsteps of Bin Laden,” CNN, August 23, 2006 http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0608/23/cp.01.html), and Steve Coll, “Young Osama,” New Yorker, December 12, 2005 http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/12/12/051212fa_fact).
  50. “In the Footsteps of Bin Laden.”
  51. “Arnaud de Borchgrave Interviews Hameed Gul, Former Chief of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence,” UPI, September 26, 2001 (http://www.strategypage.com/militaryforums/594-499.aspx; also available at(http://www.robert-fisk.com/hamid_gul_interview_sept26_2001.htm).
  52. I have given a more thorough analysis of the problems in these two “confession videos” in my book Osama bin Laden: Dead or Alive? (Northampton: Olive Branch [Interlink Books, 2009).
  53. “Osama Bin Laden: Dead or Alive?” Veterans Today, October 22, 2009 (http://www.veteranstoday.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=9079

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Apr 112013
 

Russia Today

AFP Photo / John Moore

AFP Photo / John Moore

A trove of leaked classified reports has confirmed what many had suspected – US drone kills in Pakistan are not the precision strikes against top-level al-Qaeda terrorists they are portrayed as by the Obama administration.

Instead, many of the attacks are aimed at suspected low-level tribal militants, who may pose no direct danger to the United States – and for many there appears to be little evidence to justify the assassinations.

Top secret documents obtained by McClatchy newspapers in the US show the locations, identities and numbers of those attacked and killed in Pakistan in 2006-8 and 2010-11, as well as explanations for why the targets were picked.

The statistics illustrate the breadth of the US ‘drone doctrine’ – which has never been defined by consecutive US administrations. Between 1,990 and 3,308 people are reported to have been killed in the drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004, the vast majority of them during the Obama terms.

In the 12-month period up to 2011, 43 out of 95 drone strikes in the reports (which give an account of the vast majority of US operations in the country) were not aimed at al-Qaeda at all. And 265 out of 482 people killed in those assassinations, were defined internally as “extremists”.

Indeed, only six of the men killed – less than two percent – were senior al-Qaeda leaders.

Some of the groups include the Haqqani network and the Taliban Movement of Pakistan, both militant organizations, but ones the US did not designate as terrorists until 2012 and 2010 respectively. Neither one has ever conducted an attack on US soil.

It also confirms that attacks during the George W. Bush era, were conducted on targets picked by ISI, Pakistan’s security agency, which has no obligations to comply with US legal criteria.

Furthermore, in some cases it is difficult to confirm that the targets were militants at all.

In the strikes above, the internal reports showed that only one civilian had been killed. But the modus operandi revealed behind the strikes, shows that some of the attacks seem to have been based on the certain people or visitors being present as certain locations, or merely associating with those the US believes were terrorists. This chimes with the accusation that the US is carrying out a policy of “signature strikes” – attacks based on behavior, or “signature” that would be expected of a terrorist, rather than any specific illegal activity.

These “signatures” apparently include such suspicious behavior as taking part in a funeral procession or first responding to an initial drone strike. Last year, the United Nation’s special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, said it’s believed that, “since President Obama took office, at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims and more than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners.”

The US has previously refused to admit that it operates such a policy.

Pakistani tribesmen carry the coffin of a person allegedly killed in a US drone attack, claiming that innocent civilians were killed during a June 15 strike in the North Waziristan village of Tapi, 10 kilometers away from Miranshah.(AFP Photo / Thir Khan)

Pakistani tribesmen carry the coffin of a person allegedly killed in a US drone attack, claiming that innocent civilians were killed during a June 15 strike in the North Waziristan village of Tapi, 10 kilometers away from Miranshah.(AFP Photo / Thir Khan)

Some of the assassinations, such as that of, Mohammad, the younger brother of the leader of the Haqqani network, Badruddin, appear to have been simply errors, with the victims branded as terrorists only after the fact.

All this seems to go against the assurance of John Brennan, the former White House counterterrorism chief, and new CIA head, who is the mastermind behind the drone policy

“We only authorize a particular operation against a specific individual if we have a high degree of confidence that the individual being targeted is indeed the terrorist we are pursuing,” Brennan explained a year ago.

Obama’s administration has also said all targets are on a “list of active terrorists,” compiled with “extraordinary care and thoughtfulness”. Obama has also explicitly stated that drones should not carry out “speculative” killings.

But other than when ordering assassinations of US citizens, the President does not have to give full information to the Senate about the basis for any drone attack, much less give it a legal justification.

The latest revelations have unleashed a torrent of protest from experts who believe that the program is extra-judicial, violates Pakistan’s sovereignty, and is counter-productive in the long term.

“I have never seen nor am I aware of any rules of engagement that have been made public that govern the conduct of drone operations in Pakistan, or the identification of individuals and groups other than al Qaida and the Afghan Taliban,” Christopher Swift, a national security law expert from Georgetown University told McClatchy.

“We are doing this on a case-by-case, ad hoc basis, rather than a systematic or strategic basis.”

Micah Zenko, from the Council on Foreign Relations, a foreign policy think tank, went further, and accused the government of“misleading the public about the scope of who can legitimately be targeted.”

He added: “When there is such a disconnect between who the administration says it kills and who it actually kills, that hypocrisy itself is a very dangerous precedent that other countries will emulate.”

Last month Ben Emmerson, after a secret research trip to the country announced that drone strikes violate Pakistan’s sovereignty.

Emmerson added that the Pakistani government conveyed to him that it does not consent to the attacks, something that is often challenged in Washington and fuels mass protests in Pakistan.

AFP Photo / Aamir Qureshi

AFP Photo / Aamir Qureshi

Drone strikes were first used after the 9/11 attacks from bases in Pakistan and Uzbekistan, in combat missions inside Afghanistan. More than a decade later, Washington has expanded the use of the remotely controlled aircraft into Yemen, Somalia and most of all Pakistan.

The US has carried out countless attacks on targets in northwest Pakistan since 2004 through the CIA’s Special Activities Division.  Begun by President George W. Bush, the intensity of the missions has increased under the presidency of Barack Obama.

Islamabad publicly condemns these attacks but is known to have shared intelligence with the US and allowed drones to operate from its territory until April 2011, when NATO forces killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in the Salala incident. WikiLeaks cables also revealed that Pakistan’s Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani sanctioned the flights and in 2008 even asked the CIA for more “Predator coverage.” 

Ordinary Pakistanis have also repeatedly protested against these attacks as a violation of its sovereignty and because of immense civilian collateral damage, including the death dozens of women and children.

Apr 112013
 

Washinton Post
Julie Tate

Patrick Semansky/AP – Judge rules Bin Laden raid member can testify as part of prosecution’s effort to link al-Qaeda leader to material leaked by Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, pictured.

A military judge ruled Wednesday that a member of the team that raided Osama bin Laden’s compound would be allowed to testify at the court-martial of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, part of the prosecution’s attempt to link the slain al-Qaeda leader to material leaked by the soldier.

Manning, who pleaded guilty to some charges last month, is scheduled to face a court-martial in June for leaking 700,000 documents and other materials to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

Prosecutors, who have alleged that Manning’s actions damaged national security, say digital media found at bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan show that the terrorist leader received access to some of the WikiLeaks material through an associate.

Manning’s defense team has argued that evidence obtained from the raid was not relevant to the charges against Manning, which include aiding the enemy. But on Wednesday, Army Col. Denise Lind disagreed, ruling that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the “enemy received” the material.

The witness, identified as “John Doe” and as a “DoD operator,” will testify in a closed session at an undisclosed location, Lind said, and will appear in “light disguise.”

It is presumed that the witness is a member of the Navy SEAL Team 6 that raided bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011. Only one member of the raid team has been publicly identified — Matt Bissonette, who was named shortly after publishing an account of the raid under a pseudonym.

The prosecution is hoping to call more than 20 witnesses in closed session, including officials from the State Department, Defense Department, FBI and CIA. In addition to the member of the bin Laden raid team, the names of three other witnesses are being withheld. The four are also expected to testify about the material discovered at bin Laden’s compound.

Last month, Manning pleaded guilty to 10 charges and provided a courtroom at Fort Meade with a detailed account of his decision to divulge the trove of diplomatic cables and battlefield incident reports to WikiLeaks. The former intelligence analyst said that he was seeking to spark a debate about what he described as the nation’s obsession with “killing and capturing people.”

But the prosecution is seeking to prove 22 additional charges against Manning, including aiding the enemy, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Lind said Wednesday that the prosecution would be required to prove that Manning had “reason to believe” the information he transmitted to WikiLeaks “could be used to the injury of the U.S. or the advantage of any foreign nation.” That ruling could force the prosecution to call members of the government’s classification agencies to testify that Manning would have been expected to know that the information in the documents he released could cause injury to the United States.

That ruling was one of two issued in writing Wednesday — the first time Lind had delivered decisions other than from the bench in a case that has been marked by unusually limited disclosure.

Manning’s court-martial is scheduled to begin June 3 at Fort Meade and is expected to last 12 weeks. Continue reading »

Feb 122013
 

The Daily Bell

The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden… Is Screwed. For the first time, the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden tells his story — speaking not just about the raid and the three shots that changed history, but about the personal aftermath for himself and his family. And the startling failure of the United States government to help its most experienced and skilled warriors carry on with their lives. – Esquire

Dominant Social Theme: Bin Laden is dead.

Free-Market Analysis: This article attempts to provide us with a blow-by-blow description of Osama bin Laden’s death by putting the killing within the context of the “shooter’s” life.

The article is purportedly about the injustices being heaped upon the killer of the world’s most famous terrorist. He has injuries, can’t move his neck much and is facing a good deal of difficulty in paying his bills, as he can’t find a job to replace his regular service salary of about US$60,000 a year.

The article is by Phil Bronstein, who works out of a non-profit called the Center for Investigative Journalism in Berkeley, California. Bronstein and his colleagues are all eminent journalists who appear to have run major newspapers and are now keeping the tradition of independent journalism alive as best they can.

But one thing that struck us about the article was that it used a photo of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and others in the White House’s “situation room.” In the famous photo, Hillary has her hand over her mouth as if watching something grave or terrible on the screen in front of them (which cannot be seen from the photographer’s vantage.) Her colleagues, including the President of the United States, look terribly grave.

But as we learn from Wikipedia and elsewhere, these notables were NOT in the White House situation room but in a side room nearby. And Hillary had her hand over her mouth because she had allergies and was trying to suppress a cough.

This photo has been published numerous times and usually with the implication that Hillary, Obama and the others were gathered there watching the death of bin Laden. But as has been stated numerous times, there were no interior shots of the “compound” and therefore, none of the people pictured saw bin Laden’s actual death.

There are other problems. Osama bin Laden had perhaps been dead for ten years of Marfan syndrome that elongated his body, made him sickly and ruined his kidneys. He was reportedly on dialysis in 2000. It is highly doubtful that a man in such a condition could have survived another decade before being shot by a Navy SEAL.

Additionally, as we have reported, there are various eyewitness accounts that cast doubts on how the operation was conducted and whether the SEALS even landed as described.

One point that sticks out is that the SEALS came down on top of the compound supposedly but such an approach makes no sense. Ordinarily in such occurrences, the landing is done well away from the target. For our extensive reporting on the subject just conduct a ‘Net search for “bin Laden’s death” and “Daily Bell.”

It is the photo in the Esquire article that we are fixated on because it has much resonance and has been thoroughly debunked on the Internet. In a pre-Internet era, we would have no way to fully understand the falsity of what is presented to us. And even the Wikipedia article about the photo reads like something out of a schizophrenic’s description. While virtually admitting the photo is false, the article continues on and on – explaining the importance of the photo as if it were real. Here’s some of the description.

Some historians have commented on the historical significance of the photograph, particularly its depiction of the crossing of gender and racial boundaries. Lehigh University political science professor Saladin Ambar said that the picture suggests “a new American landscape that we’re still crossing into.” He continued “When Obama was elected, there were some people who thought that we had crossed a racial threshold. What his presidency is revealing is that there are many crossings.”

The photograph has also been noted to depict a change in presidential leadership style. Historian Clarence Lusane said that past presidents have felt a need to project “machismo” and “swagger.” Meredith College sociology professor Lori Brown said it is significant however, that Obama is neither in the center of the room nor in the tallest chair. Political analyst Cheryl Contee said “Obama’s willingness to be photographed without the typical Oval Office swagger gives birth to a new type of swagger.” She said that the image shows Obama’s leadership style as a collaborator.

The New York Times commented on Clinton’s expression in the photograph, writing, “She is what the French critic Roland Barthes called the ‘punctum,’ the not necessarily conspicuous detail that gives a photograph its emotional resonance.” They also stated the mystery of the photograph—what are they looking at?—was analogous to the uncertainty of Western democracy‘s relationship with Islamic militant terrorism.

Ambar stated that the photograph also shows how entrenched women have become in U.S. politics; Hillary Clinton and Audrey Tomason are in the photograph, while the similar photograph of John F. Kennedy and his staff during the Cuban Missile Crisis does not show any women. Lori Brown said in a CNN article that the photograph also shows how women have made progress in U.S. political life, although Brown said that Clinton’s visible reaction dulled the impact somewhat, because women “are often more physical in their emotional responses and in a ‘power situation’ it may not seem as acceptable.”

But it is not “history” – or not at least the history that has been described. Again, the facts are seemingly not in dispute. The photo did not take place in the actual “situation room.” The people in the room were not watching the death of bin Laden, as the live feed – or whatever it was – did not extend inside of bin Laden’s compound. Finally, the photo’s so-called punctum, Hillary Clinton, was putting her hand up to her mouth to shield a sneeze, not because she’d just seen something awful.

If great evil is also great banality, then this banal photograph of a number of people crammed into a small room watching a phony feed – while one suppresses a sneeze – shall go down in history not as a great gathering of leaders but as a gathering of political actors playing out their assigned roles.

Because that’s what is more likely going on. The power elite that wants to build world government and controls governance in many countries already, has created a phony war on terror to justify its depredations regarding civil liberties. People must lose their freedoms so that global institutions can be built.

The killing of bin Laden was doubtless part of this phony show. These people were just following orders like everyone else, and all the fulsome articles in big US magazines cannot alleviate the narrative’s phoniness.

More likely, if someone was shot it was a blameless, aged victim – perhaps the man who actually owned the house. Or perhaps no one was shot at all. The article ends by pointing out that the shooter may be in danger from other al Qaeda types that know his name. But he is probably more in danger from the US government that concocted this phony bin Laden death – in part to re-elect Obama – and is desperate to ensure that the truth does not leak out.

But the truth already HAS leaked out, just like the truth about the photo that Esquire uses to punctuate the gravity of the moment when shooting occurred.

It seems to be a phony photo, a phony moment, a phony shooting and a phony narrative. If it tells us anything at all, it is how what we call the Internet Reformation has changed the context of 21st century information.

Twenty-five years ago, this would have been a significant article. Today, knowing what we do about the US government and its serial lying at the behest of a tiny and impossibly wealthy power elite, we can only shake our collective heads in wonder that those orchestrating these promotions still don’t understand how things have changed.

It is this as much as anything else that makes us confident that plans to gather up the world are not going well. The photo discussed above is an apt metaphor for how little they have learned and how unable they are to respond with legitimate anti-Internet strategies.

They have no idea how to contain the knowledge that the Internet has dispersed about the Way the World Really Works short of shutting down the Internet, which they cannot do.

Instead, they run long articles in magazines that are way past their prime telling people what they ought to think about this or that promotion. Don’t they understand that thinking people can go on the ‘Net and debunk these strategies with a single click of the keyboard?

Conclusion: It’s not that they don’t know anything better. It’s that they cannot think of anything else. And what does that tell us? Think about it … Continue reading »

Feb 012013
 

Wired
Spencer Ackerman

Ben Emmerson wants to be clear: He’s not out to ban flying killer robots used by the CIA or the U.S. military. But the 49-year-old British lawyer is about to become the bane of the drones’ existence, thanks to the United Nations inquiry he launched last week into their deadly operations.

Emmerson, the United Nations’ special rapporteur for human rights and counterterrorism, will spend the next five months doing something the Obama administration has thoroughly resisted: unearthing the dirty secrets of a global counterterrorism campaign that largely relies on rapidly proliferating drone technology. Announced on Thursday in London, it’s the first international inquiry into the drone program, and one that carries the imprimatur of the world body. By the next session of the United Nations in the fall, Emmerson hopes to provide the General Assembly with an report on 25 drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Palestine where civilian deaths are credibly alleged.

That carries the possibility of a reckoning with the human damage left by drones, the first such witnessing by the international community. Accountability, Emmerson tells Danger Room in a Monday phone interview, “is the central purpose of the report.” He’s not shying away from the possibility of digging up evidence of “war crimes,” should the facts point in that direction. But despite the Obama administration’s secrecy about the drone strikes to date, he’s optimistic that the world’s foremost users of lethal drone tech will cooperate with him.

In conversation, Emmerson, who’s served as special rapporteur since 2011, doesn’t sound like a drone opponent or a drone skeptic. He sounds more like a drone realist. “Let’s face it, they’re here to stay,” he says, shortly after pausing to charge his cellphone during a trip to New York to prep for his inquiry. “This technology, as I say, is a reality. It is cheap, both in economic terms and in the risk to the lives of the service personnel who are from the sending state.

“And for that reason there are real concerns that because it is so cheap, it can be used with a degree of frequency that other, more risk-based forms of engagement like fixed-wing manned aircraft or helicopters are not,” Emmerson says. “And the result is there’s a perception of the frequency and intensity with which this technology is used is exponentially different, and as a result, there is necessarily a correspondingly greater risk of civilian casualties.”

Emmerson has zeroed in on the most heated debate about the drones, a subject around which there is little consensus and fewer facts, thanks to government secrecy. Do the drones kill fewer people than other methods of warfare? Or does their seeming ease of use make warfare easier to proliferate, and therefore kill more people — terrorist and innocent — than they otherwise would? There are several independent studies, mostly relying on uncertain local media reports from the dangerous places the drones overfly, and no agreement.

Continue reading »

Dec 162012
 

Global Research
Glenn Greenwald
Kourosh Ziabari

UNGlenn Greenwald is a prominent American journalist, author, lawyer and blogger. His writings and articles have appeared on several newspapers and magazines including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The American Conservative, The National Interest and In These Times. Greenwald has received different awards including the first Izzy Award for independent journalism in 2009, and the 2010 Online Journalism Award for Best Commentary.

Until a few months ago, he was a columnist and blogger for Salon.com, but he left his job there and continued cooperating with The Guardian newspaper which he has been contributing to since June 2011.

Greenwald has published four books which include “How Would a Patriot Act?” and “A Tragic Legacy.” A progressive journalist, Glenn Greenwald is an outspoken critic of the U.S. military expeditions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and its war threats against Iran.
He has written extensively on the underground operations taken by Israel and the United States to empower and finance the exiled Iranian terrorist group MKO which has declared as one of its key objectives the overthrowing of Iranian government. With regards to the U.S. Department of State’s decision in taking the name of MKO off the list of foreign terrorist organizations, he says: “[t]his shows that anything the United States government says about terrorism and really the whole concept of terrorism itself should be viewed as nothing more than a ridiculous joke. MKO is a classic group that is a terrorist organization. They have engaged in violence against innocent civilians, they have devoted themselves to overthrow a government using violence and there are credible reports that they are the ones who are working with Israelis and are behind the assassination of civilian scientists in Iran that included the shooting of not only the scientists, but also in two cases their wives.”

I had the opportunity to talk to Glenn Greenwald for an exclusive interview which was originally appeared in Persian on Tasnim News Agency. What follows is the full text of my interview with Glenn Greenwald in which we discussed a variety of topics pertaining to the international political and military developments.

Q: What do you think about President Obama administration’s plans for shaping a new Middle East based on the national interests of the United States and dominating the vast oil reserves of these countries?

 A: A crucial part of the Obama administration’s strategy and the strategies of all the prior administrations in the United States was to basically put into place dictatorships in the Muslim world that would keep the population suppressed and serve the interests of the U.S. government, particularly in the countries with remarkable oil and energy resources. So you see the relationships the United States has with the [Persian] Gulf states such as Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. These are the governments which suppress their population, but serve as loyal allies of the United States and make oil available to the U.S. and the Obama administration continues supporting them.

Q: In the recent months, we have been witness to the continued killing of the pro-democracy protesters and imprisonment of political activists in Bahrain. However, the U.S. government hasn’t taken any practical steps to stop bloodshed and persuade the Al Khalifa regime to stop using force and violence. What’s your idea in this regard?

A: Well, this is a perfect example of what I was describing. The governments which I named and the Bahraini government are unbelievably oppressive. They murder protesters who are demonstrating peacefully, put people in prison and torture them and the Obama administration does nothing about that and continues to strengthen that regime through financing it and even sending it a lot of arms, while the regime is cracking down on the citizens in such a brutal way. The reason the U.S. government supports Bahrain is that the regime allows the U.S. to maintain a very large fleet of naval resources off the coast of Bahrain that can be used to threaten Iran and that generally allows the U.S. government to dominate the [Persian] Gulf region, and so in extreme for the regime in Bahrain, that is basically the puppet and client government of the United States, the U.S. government supports the regime as it murders its own citizens and suppresses of all forms of freedoms. And Bahrain is a perfect example of the strategy the Obama administration has adopted to just dominate the region militarily and help the dictators of the region suppress their populations.

Q: One of the electoral promises of President Obama was to close the Guantanamo bay detention facility within one year after being elected. However, on January 7, 2011, he signed the 2011 Defense Authorization Bill which placed restrictions on the transferring of detainees to the U.S. or other countries, thus impeding the closure of the underground detention camp. What’s your take on that?

 A: The excuse the Obama administration gave was that the people in the Congress refused to allow Obama to close down Guantanamo. But the truth is that from the beginning, Obama’s plan was to keep the system of Guantanamo in place and transfer the detainees to the U.S. while people from all around the Muslim world still are allowed to remain in prison without charges of any kind and without due processes at any time. But to remove them from Guantanamo and placing them in a new prison inside the United States would only add some sort of a symbolic aspect to it. So it was always the Obama administration’s plan to keep the Guantanamo open. They simply wanted to move it, not to close it. And this Defense Authorization Bill which you ask about was passed in December 2010 and January 2011 is a sort of legislation that empowers the president whoever he wants on accusations of terrorism, without having to charge that person with any crime, without having to in any way offer the person the opportunity to contest the allegations or present compelling evidence, and President Obama has signed a law that actually strengthened this system of indefinite lawless detention.

Q: What’s your perspective on the U.S. drone attacks on Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia and its violation of Iran’s airspace last year in December 2011 and in the last week? 

 A: The drone attacks on Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia have repeatedly killed all sorts of innocent civilians; women, children and innocent men, and the Obama administration simply believes that it has the right to kill anyone it wants anywhere in the world regardless of who dies, and this is the policy that the Obama administration has actually pursued even more aggressively than the Bush administration and the drone attacks have increased significantly under President Obama. He has used drones on six different Muslim countries; Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. I should point out that President Obama has extremely aggressive beliefs that in the name of combating terrorism, he can kill whoever he wants or attack anyone he wants without regard to any nation’s sovereignty. The ironic part about that is that it’s precisely the drone attacks which cause terrorism in the first place.

The reason why there are so many people in the world, especially in the Muslim world want to attack the United States is precisely because they watch on a regular basis the United States attacking their countries, killing their children, innocent men and women and they come to the conclusion that the only way to stop this is by having the violence go both ways. The drone attacks not only kill innocent people, but they make the problem of terrorism far worse. As far as the drones in Iran are concerned, Iran has the absolute right, like any other country does, to take down surveillance instruments that fly over their land without permission. What strikes me is the way this is reported and discussed here in the United States, and that is when Iran successfully shoots down or disables a U.S. drone that has entered its airspace, it’s talked of as if it’s some sort of aggressive action on the side of the Iranian government.

But of course if Iran ever sent a drone anywhere near the airspace of the United States, let alone into the United States, not only that drone would be immediately shot down, but everyone in the United States would talk of it as if it was a horrible act of war and would probably result in bombs being dropped on Iran in retaliation. So you see here this extreme double standard that the United States thinks that it has the right to send drones on Iran’s airspace, but nobody in the United States and almost nobody would think that Iran would have the right to do the same to the United States.

Q: The United States has always called itself a champion of combating terrorism and frequently criticizes other countries for their alleged sponsorship of terrorist groups. But in a controversial decision, they took the name of Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization off the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations, and there’s credible evidence showing that Washington has been supporting MKO in its terrorist operations, both militarily and financially. Isn’t this a hypocritical approach in dealing with the issue of terrorism?

 A: This shows that anything the United States government says about terrorism and really the whole concept of terrorism itself should be viewed as nothing more than a ridiculous joke. MKO is a classic group that is a terrorist organization. They have engaged in violence against innocent civilians, they have devoted themselves to overthrow a government using violence and there are credible reports that they are the ones who are working with Israelis and are behind the assassination of civilian scientists in Iran that included the shooting of not only the scientists, but also in two cases their wives. And because this group has paid so many influential politicians in the United States and also because this group now carries out terrorist operations on behalf of Israel and the United States in promotion of the interests of Israel and the United States, they have been removed from the list of terrorist organizations by the Obama administration and this really shows that the United States is not against terrorism.
The U.S. government uses terrorism continuously to serve its interests. The United States government says that it is against terrorism
only because terrorism is the word that applies to anybody who opposes or impedes the agenda of the United States, and the willingness to remove the name of MKO from the list of terrorist organizations even though they are committed to the use of violence and killing of Iranian officials proves how worthless the United States’ claims about terrorism are.

Q: What do you think about the humanitarian impacts of the anti-Iranian sanctions? In one of your articles, you alluded to some facts regarding the scarcity of foodstuff and other goods in Iran as a result of the sanctions. I’ll add the medicine, travel restrictions and unsafe aviation fleet to your list. Isn’t it some sort of violation of human rights by the United States?


A: Of course. One of the worst crimes that the United States has committed over the last several decades was the sanctions regime that it imposed on Iraq which killed several hundred thousands of children, deprived people of basic food and medicine and strengthened Saddam Hussein by making everybody in the country poor and dependent on him. This is now repeating itself in Iran, not to the same extent yet but it has its own effects where there are poor Iranian children who are sick and unable to get medicine and are dying as a result. Obviously the American officials openly brag about the destruction of Iranian economy and the collapse of Iranian currency which they are causing with their sanctions regime, and you see it’s a kind of collective punishment to terrorize the Iranian people for the alleged crimes of their government; the kinds of crimes that the United States has condemned the other countries for committing for many decades. So absolutely the sanctions regime which the United States is leading is really an act of war and a way of making Iranians and innocent civilians suffer greatly, and absolutely a kind of collective punishment that should be judged by the decent people.

Q: What’s your idea about the U.S. mainstream media’s portrayal of the developments in the Middle East and especially Iran? They don’t allow the citizens to be aware of the fact that, for example, the economic sanctions are paralyzing the daily life of ordinary Iranian citizens, as they did with regards to the Iraqi people. Why do the American media want to leave their people in ignorance and unawareness?

 A: The role of the U.S. media in general is to serve the interests of the U.S. government. They claim that we have a free media, but for a lot of different reasons, these media are owned by the corporations and these corporations are very well to the U.S. government. And so part of what any government wants to do when it wants to be aggressive on other countries is to dehumanize their population; to depict them in very simplistic ways. What the U.S. media generally show of Iran is nothing more than the claims that they have evil, extremist leaders and almost never talk of the complexities of Iran and tens of millions of Iranian citizens who produce a complicated and difficult to caricature society.

Q: How do you perceive the relationship between Obama and the Israeli lobby? How much influence has the Israeli lobby had on Obama and what role has it played in the reelection of Obama? Do you think that Obama was at odds with Netanyahu on such cases as settlement constructions, or they were simply superficial conflicts and they were practically close allies?

 A: Any differences between Obama a nd Netanyahu are, as you said, superficial and symbolic and never resulted in meaningful action. If you turn to Israelis, they will tell you that the relationship between the United States and Israel under Obama is closer than it has ever been under any prior U.S. President. We saw that with the Israeli attack on Gaza, the Obama administration 100 percent justified and stood behind Israel, and just in the two recent votes in the United Nations, one on Palestinian statehood and the other that demanded Israel to open its nuclear stockpile to inspection, the United States sided with Israel and isolated itself in almost the entire world.

So you have this extremely loyal relationship between Obama and Israelis including Netanyahu, and it’s in large part because as many prominent American columnists including Jewish and pro-Israel commentators have observed there’s a very strong pro-Israeli lobby in the United States which is very well-funded and very powerful and that basically keeps both the political parties completely on the side of Israel in every single controversy or dispute, even when doing so harms the United States, they force both political parties to choose loyalty to Israel over the interests of the United States and as a result, neither political party is able, even if they want to, to in any meaningful way pressure the Israelis or challenge them.

And despite all the loyalty that the United States has to Israel, Israelis continue to pursue policies that the United States doesn’t want them to do, like the expansion of settlements in the West Bank and yet the United States in unwilling to punish them or sanction them because of the domestic political pressures.

Q: Iran has assumed the three-year presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement in the 16th summit of the organization which was held in Tehran in August 2012. What’s your viewpoint regarding the importance of this summit for Iran which the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi along with several leaders from across the world attended? 

 A: I think it’s significant because one of the main objectives of Israel and the United States was to depict Iran as isolated from the rest of the world. But what we are seeing is that to some extent, they are Israel and the United States that are increasingly being isolated from the rest of the world. And the refusal of so many countries in denouncing Israel and the United States’ calls for not attending the summit and otherwise isolating the Iranian government is very significant in that regard as are the two votes that just took place in the UN that overwhelmingly sided against Israel. So I think the Israelis have become their own worst enemies through their extreme pursuance of the ideological vision, their refusal to compromise, their expansion of settlements that are illegal and their use of violence and aggression have alienated a huge part of the world, much more than Iran has, and if there’s anyone in the danger of isolation, I think it’s Israel.

Q: And finally, what’s your viewpoint regarding Israel’s aggressive war rhetoric against Iran and its continued threats of using force against Iran? These war threats clearly violate the UN Charter, but the Security Council hasn’t taken any practical steps to criticize and punish Israel for its illegal behavior. What’s your take on that?

 A: Well, I think that UN Security Council’s enforcement of those roles is practically impossible because almost everybody knows that the United States will veto any resolution to condemn Israel for its use of those threats. It’s also the case that many countries that are in the Security Council, mostly the United States, but also Russia and China also use threats against other countries in violation of the UN Charter, so everyone is a little bit afraid of punishing Israel for violating rules that those countries themselves like to violate, but it’s really the case that the United States and Israel have made a joke of the UN Charter and continuously threaten Iran to use military force against Iran, to bomb Iran, to keep all options on the table including a military strike, and this is a clear violation of the UN Charter and everything that it was intended to stand for. As long as the U.S. has the veto power, the Security Council will be completely unable to act against Israel’s violation of the UN Charter.

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Dec 132012
 

LATimes
Richard A. Serrano

A military judge says details of the harsh interrogations of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other terrorism defendants can’t be mentioned in court. Human rights advocates object.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed pictured in July in detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed pictured in July at the U.S. prison at
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Details of his harsh treatment will
not be permitted at his terrorism trial. 
   

WASHINGTON — The judge in the military commission case against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other suspected Sept. 11 plotters ruled that details of harsh interrogation techniques used on them would be kept secret during their trial, a decision that human rights advocates called an attempt to hide the fact that the men were tortured.

The order, signed by Army Col. James L. Pohl on Dec. 6 and made public Wednesday, represents a clear victory for U.S. military and Justice Department prosecutors in the opening round of pretrial disputes. The first and only trial in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks could begin as soon as next year.

Prosecutors had wanted all information about the five men’s arrests and treatment at so-called black sites abroad to remain classified. Pohl agreed even though some government officials have acknowledged that Mohammed, for instance, was waterboarded 183 times after his 2003 capture in Pakistan. Waterboarding simulates drowning; many consider it torture.

Nevertheless, Pohl ruled that “enhanced interrogation techniques that were applied to the accused … including descriptions of the techniques as applied, the duration, frequency, sequencing and limitations of those techniques,” would remain classified. Nor will he permit the defendants or their attorneys to discuss those matters in legal papers or open court.

“Names, identities and physical descriptions of any persons involved with the capture, transfer, detention or interrogation” of the accused will not be released, he said, nor will any “information that would reveal or tend to reveal the foreign countries” where the suspects were held before their transfer to the prison at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Pohl approved a 40-second audio delay in future proceedings to further protect classified information.

His “Protective Order No. 1″ marks one of the most significant rulings in a case with worldwide interest in how the U.S. handles terrorism suspects as families await justice for nearly 3,000 loved ones killed in the airliner attacks at New York City’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon outside Washington and a farm field in western Pennsylvania.

Defense lawyers, the American Civil Liberties Union and a group of news organizations — including the Tribune Co., owner of the Los Angeles Times — had urged the judge to permit disclosure of this information.

“We’re profoundly disappointed,” said Hina Shamsi, an ACLU lawyer, adding that she would probably appeal the protective order. “The government wanted to ensure that the American public would never hear the defendants’ accounts of illegal CIA torture, rendition and detention, and the military judge has gone along with that shameful plan.”

Eugene Fidell, a military law expert at Yale Law School, said many would view the ruling as the government’s attempt to try the men in secrecy despite new military commission safeguards under the Obama administration that promised transparency.


“I’m quite uncomfortable with rulings that are this sweeping,” he said, “and military law on this subject is not friendly to blanket orders. It’s supposed to be done with a scalpel rather than a meat cleaver.”

He added that even if the complex trial opened in 2013, it would come 12 years after the attacks.

“We’ve all been drumming our fingers on the table for this train to leave,” he said. “The length of time for the wheels of justice to turn on these prosecutions is scandalous and deeply upsetting to the families of the victims.”

But Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a Pentagon spokesman, said the order detailed the law and reasoning the judge applied after carefully reading legal briefs and hearing oral arguments. And he said it mirrored how classified information was routinely kept out of federal courts in the U.S.

“He has done what all courts do to responsibly handle national security information while also ensuring both that the accused will receive a fair trial and that the proceedings will be as open and public as possible,” Breasseale said.

Along with Mohammed, the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind, the other defendants are Ramzi Binalshibh, the alleged plot cell manager; Walid bin Attash, an alleged Al Qaeda training camp steward; and two alleged Al Qaeda financiers, Mustafa Ahmed Hawsawi and Ammar al Baluchi, also known as Ali Abdul Aziz Ali.
richard.serrano@latimes.com

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Dec 102012
 

Global Research

Jean Bricmont

Jean Bricmont : Guerre en Syrie ? « On va vers une espèce de folie » (Vidéos)Ever since the 1990s, and especially since the Kosovo war in 1999, anyone who opposes armed interventions by Western powers and NATO has to confront what may be called an anti-anti-war left (including its far left segment). In Europe, and notably in France, this anti-anti-war left is made up of the mainstream of social democracy, the Green parties and most of the radical left. The anti-anti-war left does not come out openly in favor of Western military interventions and even criticizes them at times (but usually only for their tactics or alleged motivations – the West is supporting a just cause, but clumsily and for oil or for geo-strategic reasons).

But most of its energy is spent issuing “warnings” against the supposed dangerous drift of that part of the left that remains firmly opposed to such interventions. It calls upon us to show solidarity with the “victims” against “dictators who kill their own people”, and not to give in to knee-jerk anti-imperialism, anti-Americanism, or anti-Zionism, and above all not to end up on the same side as the far right. After the Kosovo Albanians in 1999, we have been told that “we” must protect Afghan women, Iraqi Kurds and more recently the people of Libya and of Syria.

It cannot be denied that the anti-anti-war left has been extremely effective. The Iraq war, which was sold to the public as a fight against an imaginary threat, did indeed arouse a fleeting opposition, but there has been very little opposition on the left to interventions presented as “humanitarian”, such as the bombing of Yugoslavia to detach the province of Kosovo, the bombing of Libya to get rid of Gaddafi, or the current intervention in Syria. Any objections to the revival of imperialism or in favor of peaceful means of dealing with such conflicts have simply been brushed aside by invocations of “R2P”, the right or responsibility to protect, or the duty to come to the aid of a people in danger.

The fundamental ambiguity of the anti-anti-war left lies in the question as to who are the “we” who are supposed to intervene and protect. One might ask the Western left, social movements or human rights organizations the same question Stalin addressed to the Vatican, “How many divisions do you have?” As a matter of fact, all the conflicts in which “we” are supposed to intervene are armed conflicts. Intervening means intervening militarily and for that, one needs the appropriate military means. It is perfectly obvious that the Western left does not possess those means. It could call on European armies to intervene, instead of the United States, but they have never done so without massive support from the United States. So in reality the actual message of the anti-anti-war left is: “Please, oh Americans, make war not love!” Better still, inasmuch as since their debacle in Afghanistan and in Iraq, the Americans are leery of sending in ground troops, the message amounts to nothing other than asking the U.S. Air Force to go bomb countries where human rights violations are reported to be taking place.

Of course, anyone is free to claim that human rights should henceforth be entrusted to the good will of the U.S. government, its bombers, its missile launchers and its drones. But it is important to realize that that is the concrete meaning of all those appeals for “solidarity” and “support” to rebel or secessionist movements involved in armed struggles. Those movements have no need of slogans shouted during “demonstrations of solidarity” in Brussels or in Paris, and that is not what they are asking for. They want to get heavy weapons and see their enemies bombed.

The anti-anti-war left, if it were honest, should be frank about this choice, and openly call on the United States to go bomb wherever human rights are violated; but then it should accept the consequences. In fact, the political and military class that is supposed to save the populations “massacred by their dictators” is the same one that waged the Vietnam war, that imposed sanctions and wars on Iraq, that imposes arbitrary sanctions on Cuba, Iran and any other country that meets with their disfavor, that provides massive unquestioning support to Israel, which uses every means including coups d’état to oppose social reformers in Latin America, from Arbenz to Chavez by way of Allende, Goulart and others, and which shamelessly exploits workers and resources the world over. One must be quite starry-eyed to see in that political and military class the instrument of salvation of “victims”, but that is in practice exactly what the anti-anti-war left is advocating, because, given the relationship of forces in the world, there is no other military force able to impose its will.

Of course, the U.S. government is scarcely aware of the existence of the anti-anti-war left. The United States decides whether or not to wage war according to the chances of succeeding and to their own assessment of their strategic, political and economic interests. And once a war is begun, they want to win at all costs. It makes no sense to ask them to carry out only good interventions, against genuine villains, using gentle methods that spare civilians and innocent bystanders.

For example, those who call for “saving Afghan women” are in fact calling on the United States to intervene and, among other things, bomb Afghan civilians and shoot drones at Pakistan. It makes no sense to ask them to protect but not to bomb, because armies function by shooting and bombing.[1]

A favorite theme of the anti-anti-war left is to accuse those who reject military intervention of “supporting the dictator”, meaning the leader of the currently targeted country. The problem is that every war is justified by a massive propaganda effort which is based on demonizing the enemy, especially the enemy leader. Effectively opposing that propaganda requires contextualizing the crimes attributed to the enemy and comparing them to those of the side we are supposed to support. That task is necessary but risky; the slightest mistake will be endlessly used against us, whereas all the lies of the pro-war propaganda are soon forgotten.

Already, during the First World War, Bertrand Russell and British pacifists were accused of “supporting the enemy”. But if they denounced Allied propaganda, it was not out of love for the German Kaiser, but in the cause of peace. The anti-anti-war left loves to denounce the “double standards” of coherent pacifists who criticize the crimes of their own side more sharply than those attributed to the enemy of the moment (Milosevic, Gaddafi, Assad, and so on), but this is only the necessary result of a deliberate and legitimate choice: to counter the war propaganda of our own media and political leaders (in the West), propaganda which is based on constant demonization of the enemy under attack accompanied by idealization of the attacker.

The anti-anti-war left has no influence on American policy, but that doesn’t mean that it has no effect. Its insidious rhetoric has served to neutralize any peace or anti-war movement. It has also made it impossible for any European country to take such an independent position as France took under De Gaulle, or even Chirac, or as Sweden did with Olof Palme. Today such a position would be instantly attacked by the anti-anti-war left, which is echoed by European media, as “support to dictators”, another “Munich”, or “the crime of indifference”.

What the anti-anti-war left has managed to accomplish is to destroy the sovereignty of Europeans in regard to the United States and to eliminate any independent left position concerning war and imperialism. It has also led most of the European left to adopt positions in total contradiction with those of the Latin American left and to consider as adversaries countries such as China and Russia which seek to defend international law, as indeed they should.

When the media announce that a massacre is imminent, we hear at times that action is “urgent” to save the alleged future victims, and time cannot be lost making sure of the facts. This may be true when a building is on fire in one’s own neighborhood, but such urgency regarding other countries ignores the manipulation of information and just plain error and confusion that dominate foreign news coverage. Whatever the political crisis abroad, the instant “we must do something” reflex brushes aside serious reflection on the left as to what might be done instead of military intervention. What sort of independent investigation could be carried out to understand the causes of conflict and potential solutions? What can be the role of diplomacy? The prevailing images of immaculate rebels, dear to the left from its romanticizing of past conflicts, especially the Spanish Civil War, blocks reflection. It blocks realistic assessment of the relationship of forces as well as the causes of armed rebellion in the world today, very different from the 1930s, favorite source of the cherished legends of the Western left.

What is also remarkable is that most of the anti-anti-war left shares a general condemnation of the revolutions of the past, because they led to Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot etc. But now that the revolutionaries are (Western backed) Islamists, we are supposed to believe that everything will turn out fine. What about “drawing the lesson from the past” that violent revolutions are not necessarily the best or the only way to achieve social change?

An alternative policy would take a 180° turn away from the one currently advocated by the anti-anti-war left. Instead of calling for more and more interventions, we should demand of our governments the strict respect for international law, non-interference in the internal affairs of other States and cooperation instead of confrontation.

Non-interference means not only military non-intervention. It applies also to diplomatic and economic actions: no unilateral sanctions, no threats during negotiations, and equal treatment of all States. Instead of constantly “denouncing” the leaders of countries such as Russia, China, Iran, Cuba for violating human rights, something the anti-anti-war left loves to do, we should listen to what they have to say, dialogue with them, and help our fellow citizens understand the different ways of thinking in the world, including the criticisms that other countries can make of our way of doing things. Cultivating such mutual understanding could in the long run be the best way to improve “human rights” everywhere.

This would not bring instant solutions to human rights abuses or political conflicts in countries such as Libya or Syria. But what does? The policy of interference increases tensions and militarization in the world. The countries that feel targeted by that policy, and they are numerous, defend themselves however they can. The demonization campaigns prevent peaceful relations between peoples, cultural exchanges between citizens and, indirectly, the flourishing of the very liberal ideas that the advocates of interference claim to be promoting. Once the anti-anti-war left abandoned any alternative program, it in fact gave up the possibility of having the slightest influence over world affairs. It does not in reality “help the victims” as it claims. Except for destroying all resistance here to imperialism and war, it does nothing. The only ones who are really doing anything are in fact the succeeding U.S. administrations. Counting on them to care for the well-being of the world’s peoples is an attitude of total hopelessness.

This hopelessness is an aspect of the way most of the Left reacted to the “fall of communism”, by embracing the policies that were the exact opposite of those of the communists, particularly in international affairs, where opposition to imperialism and the defense of national sovereignty have increasingly been demonized as “leftovers from Stalinism”.

Interventionism and European construction are both right-wing policies. One of them is linked to the American drive for world hegemony. The other is the framework supporting neoliberal economic policies and destruction of social protection. Paradoxically, both have been largely justified by “left-wing” ideas : human rights, internationalism, anti-racism and anti-nationalism. In both cases, a left that lost its way after the fall of the Soviet bloc has grasped at salvation by clinging to a “generous, humanitarian” discourse, which totally lacks any realistic analysis of the relationship of forces in the world. With such a left, the right hardly needs any ideology of its own; it can make do with human rights.

Nevertheless, both those policies, interventionism and European construction, are today in a dead end. U.S. imperialism is faced with huge difficulties, both economic and diplomatic. Its intervention policy has managed to unite much of the world against the United States. Scarcely anyone believes any more in “another” Europe, a social Europe, and the real existing European Union (the only one possible) does not arouse much enthusiasm among working people. Of course, those failures currently benefit solely the right and the far right, only because most of the left has stopped defending peace, international law and national sovereignty, as the precondition of democracy.

JEAN BRICMONT teaches physics at the University of Louvain in Belgium. He is a member of the Executive Committee of The BRussells Tribunal. He is author of Humanitarian Imperialism. He can be reached at Jean.Bricmont@uclouvain.be

[1] On the occasion of the recent NATO summit in Chicago, Amnesty International launched a campaign of posters calling on NATO to “keep up the progress” on behalf of women in Afghanistan, without explaining, or even raising the question as to how a military organization was supposed to accomplish such an objective.

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