Sy Hersh on Obama & Afghanistan: ‘The stuff that goes on in the field, is still going on in the field’
- Japan Races to Cool Reactors as Radiation Fears Grow
- Reactor Model Faulted for Safety Concerns
- Quake, Tsunami Toll Tops 11,000
- Bahraini Forces Attack Protesters in Manama
- Egyptian Youth Groups Refuse to Meet Clinton over Mubarak Support
- U.S. Air Strike Kills 2 Afghan Children; Petraeus Suggests Long-Term U.S. Military Presence
- Gaddafi Forces Advance on Benghazi
- Michigan Lawmakers Approve Emergency Management Bill
- Hundreds Protest Anti-Teacher Bill in Tennessee
- Uzbekistan Expels Human Rights Watch
- Utah Enacts Anti-Immigrant Bill
- Report: U.S. Deploys Drones in Mexico
One of my sources who shall also remain anonymous sent me this: “The country is a mess right now. Here’s a classic case of adding insult to injury — literally: the official state channel on Twitter just now: bna_ar وكالة أنباء البحرين
I have no way to verify this, but it’s making the rounds, including Huff Post, so I’m posting this as is. If anyone knows more about this video, please weigh in in the comments. Thanks. The video is posted below the screen shots I grabbed.
He was already shot once by the police, and was just standing up again when he got shot a second time, apparently in the head. First pic he’s standing up after being shot the first time, second pic you can see the cop in back aiming his gun seemingly at the man’s head, third pic he fires in a puff of smoke. Looks like they might be rubber bullets, or they might have been buckshot that they were using on other protesters.
Hundreds of riot police backed up by tanks, bulldozers and helicopters killed at least two and wounded dozens more March 16 as they cleared a protest camp in Bahrain’s Pearl Square. The action came a day after an armed intervention force from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates entered the country, and King Hamad declared a three-month state of emergency.
Forces loyal to Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi launched a two-pronged attack on Tuesday and Wednesday, on Misrata near Tripoli and on Ajdabiya in the east, with an eye to controlling all major population centers from the Tunisian border to the gates of Benghazi, the center of the rebel movement.
Through Wednesday into Thursday morning, the rebels managed to fight off both assaults, remaining in control of both cities for now. Some reports said that the rebels had pushed Qaddafi’s military 30 miles west from Ajdabiya, after the city had initially fallen to the troops and armor from Tripoli.
Further to the east, the esprit de corps of the rebels continues to be high, according to Western reporters there.
The US is increasingly favoring intervention, and not just a no-fly zone to protect civilians from Qaddafi’s air strikes. US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice is said to be advocating a Kosovo-like intervention to roll up Qaddafi’s armor and stop its victorious advance to the east. Russia and China, both with veto powers, have typically opposed external intervention in the internal affairs of sovereign nations. A vote comes today at the UNSC. If the measure is vetoed, the US has few options other than another unilateral or ‘coalition of the willing’ -type assault.
From the outside, it looks at though aid to the rebels will come too late. Qaddafi is pledging a major push later today, Thursday.
Some 200 Syrians defied a state emergency in place since 1963 to gather in Damascus to demand a political opening March 15. “God, Syria, liberty” and “Syrians, where are you?” chanted men and women, urging their compatriots to join the “peaceful march” which unfolded in a central souk of Old City Damascus. The young protesters marched through landmark souks al-Hamidiyeh and Hariqa, drawing dozens of other Syrians with them. But security forces broke up the group and arrested two.
Libyan rebels battled Qaddafi-loyalist forces at Ajdabiya on March 16, as the provisional opposition government in Benghazi, just 150 miles up the coast, prepared for an assault on the city. In response to international calls for a no-fly zone, Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, the dictator’s son, boasted to reporters: “The military operations are finished. In 48 hours everything will be over. Our forces are close to Benghazi. Whatever decision is taken, it will be too late.”
As the nuclear crisis unfolds in Japan, Democracy Now! reports from South Africa on the government’s plan to triple the country’s nuclear fleet in order to meet rising energy demand. South Africa has the only nuclear reactor on the continent—the Koeberg nuclear power station near Cape Town—but there are plans to build six more reactors. We speak with South African nuclear expert David Fig, who says, “We need to really assess as a country whether we want to go down the nuclear road for further energy purposes.” We also speak to Makoma Lekalakala of Earthlife Africa, who says that the country’s significant potential for solar and wind energy should be developed. [includes rush transcript]
Sy Hersh on Obama & Afghanistan: ‘The stuff that goes on in the field, is still going on in the field’
Here are a few excerpts from a speech given by award-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in January 2011, as reported in Foreign Policy magazine. Hersh has a long career that includes the exposure of the Vietnam-era My Lai massacres and the Abu Graib prison-torture scandals. (That whole last link is worth a read.) A good overview of Hersh and his career is here.
Now the excerpts from the speech. Keep in mind this is a transcript, so there are a lot of retracements of thought. Unlike in his writing, Hersh is a wandery speaker. Much of this is coming from his research on an upcoming book on Dick Cheney.
First, on differences between Obama and Bush in the use of torture (my emphasis throughout):
In any case, Obama did abdicate, very quickly, any control, I think right away, to the people that are running the war, for what reason I don’t know. I can tell you, there is a scorecard I always keep and I always look at. Torture? Yep, still going on. It’s more complicated now the torture, and there’s not as much of it. But one of the things we did, ostensibly to improve the conditions of prisoners, we demanded that the American soldiers operating in Afghanistan could only hold a suspected Taliban for four days, 96 hours. If not… after four days they could not be sure that this person was not a Taliban, he must be freed. Instead of just holding them and making them Taliban, you have to actually do some, some work to make the determination in the field. Tactically, in the field. So what happens of course, is after three or four days, “bang, bang” — I’m just telling you — they turn them over to the Afghans and by the time they take three steps away the shots are fired. And that’s going on. It hasn’t stopped. It’s not just me that’s complaining about it. But the stuff that goes on in the field, is still going on in the field — the secret prisons, absolutely, oh you bet they’re still running secret prisons. Most of them are in North Africa, the guys running them are mostly out of Djibouto [sic]. We have stuff in Kenya (doesn’t mean they’re in Kenya, but they’re in that area).
On Cheney and the “whacking” in Afghanistan:
Stanley McChrystal had been in charge of the Joint Special Operations Command [see below] from ‘03 to ‘07 under Cheney. In the beginning under Cheney — what I’m telling you is sort of hard to take because the vice… In the beginning they would get their orders, they would call up on satellite phones, from the field, to Cheney’s office, and get authority, basically, to whack people. Sometimes names were given, sometimes generic authority was given. This was going on. There’s still an enormous amount of whacking going on right now. What happened is after McChrystal ran into trouble and he was replaced, Petraeus took over the war, General Petraeus — they call him King David, David Petraeus — and he has done this in the last 6, 8 months; He has doubled up on the nightly , nightly assassinations. He’s escalated the bombing. He’s gotten much tougher. His argument is: Let’s squeeze them, let’s bomb ‘em, let’s hit ‘em, and then of course they’ll be open to negotiation.
For background on JSOC, here’s Hersh from a different speech, given in 2009, as quoted in Alternet:
“Right now, today, there was a story in the New York Times that if you read it carefully mentioned something known as the Joint Special Operations Command — JSOC it’s called. It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. They did not report to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff or to Mr. [Robert] Gates, the secretary of defense. They reported directly to him. […]
“Congress has no oversight of it. It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on. Just today in the Times there was a story that its leaders, a three star admiral named [William H.] McRaven, ordered a stop to it because there were so many collateral deaths.
And finally, this — Hersh on the relationship between the military and right-wing Catholic societies like Opus Dei. Quoted without comment (though others have had much to say). This is about the “Knights of Malta” (really, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta) — a land-less state with many diplomatic privileges, by the way:
[I]n the Cheney shop — I can write about it in ways I could not then, because I didn’t want expose anybody who was there — in the Cheney shop the attitude was, “What’s this? What? What are they all worried about, the politicians and the press, they’re all worried about some looting? And wait a second, Sunnis don’t like Shia? And there’s no WMD? And there’s no democracy? Don’t they get it? We’re going to change mosques into cathedrals. And when we get hold of all the oil, nobody’ s going to give a damn.” That’s the attitude: “We’re going to change mosques into cathedrals.”
That’s an attitude that pervades, I’m here to say, a large percentage of the Special Operations Command, the Joint Special Operations Command and Stanley McChrystal, the one who got in trouble because of the article in Rolling Stone, and his follow-on, a Navy admiral named McRaven, Bill McRaven — all are members or at least supporters of Knights of Malta. McRaven attended, so I understand, the recent annual convention of the Knights of Malta they had in Cyprus a few months back in November. They’re all believers — many of them are members of Opus Dei. They do see what they are doing — and this is not an atypical attitude among some military — it’s a crusade, literally. […] Look, Knights of Malta does great stuff. They do a lot of charity work; so does Opus Dei. It’s a very extreme, extremely religious, Roman Catholic sect, if you will. But for me, it’s always, when I think of them, I always think of the line we used about Werner von Braun [a Nazi rocket scientist brought to the US to help with the missle program] […] “Werner von Braun, he aimed for the moon but often hit London.” With his rockets.
As with my earlier Robert Fisk article, I can only present this as representing Hersh’s research, which he isn’t yet sharing. On the other hand, this is Seymour Hersh, not Swiss cheese.
There’s much more to this speech; please read it all if this stuff interests you. (And if you find an online link to Part II, please post it in the comments. Thanks.)
Secretary Clinton’s remarks on Bahrain, made to reporters in Cairo today, overlook the reality that protesting and simultaneously setting conditions for dialogue are legitimate aspects of the political process she says she wishes to promote. The protest movement in Egypt, to the acclaim of the world, refused to negotiate with the government of Hosni Mubarak and responded to all his overtures with deafening chants of ‘irhal’ (go away) and ‘yuwa yimshi, mush hanimshi’ (HE must go, we won’t go). Here’s what Clinton said:
I think what’s happening in Bahrain is alarming, and it is unfortunately diverting attention and effort away from the political and economic track that is the only way forward to resolve the legitimate differences of the Bahrainis themselves… We have made that clear time and time again. We have deplored the use of force. We have said not only to the Bahrainis but to our Gulf partners that we do not think security is the answer to what is going on. Now, we’ve also said to the protestors that they have to engage in peaceful protest and they should return to the negotiating table.
But to product long-lasting and harmonious results, a negotiations must be between parties who enjoy roughly equal power and influence. In both Egypt and Bahrain, the protesters have had strength only when they are on the street, visible to the world in whatever numbers they can muster. In other words, their strength is in their numbers, their camaradeirie and their solidarity. As soon as they send a delegation in for negotiations with the government, the delegation is a small isolated group, overwhelmed by the awe and power of a well-entrenched state. When the protest movement is fluid and spontaneous, again as in Egypt and Bahrain, no delegates can be fully representative anyway and in the end any political settlement has to be endorsed by ‘public outcry’. If the crowds are satisfied, they will drift away. If they are not satisfied, they will turn up again the next day. That’s what happened in Egypt. When Mubarak said he would step down in September, the crowds stayed and grew in numbers. When Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that Mubarak had handed power to the military council, they cheered and went off to celebrate.
When the Egyptian protest movement was in roughly the same stage as the Bahraini movement is in today, the US position was that Mubarak should go immediately. Their position on Bahrain is markedly different. There’s no suggestion that the Khalifa family has lost legitimacy through using brutal force against mainly peaceful protesters or by calling in troops from a neighbouring country, a country overtly hostile to the Bahraini protest movement and to any progress towards democracy or constitutional monarchy in any of its smaller neighbours.
There are several factors at work here:
* The United States believes for the moment that the Khalifa family has a chance of surviving, even if it has to make some serious concessions to stay in power. The Bahrain protest movement has by no means been uniformly or consistently republican, so concessions by the Khalifas might split and weaken the movement. Although Clinton deplores the use of force in public, she might have calculated that the combined power of the Saudi and Bahrain forces might overawe the protesters. For sectarian reasons, the Gulf forces can at least be expected to be more cohesive and less scrupulous with the opposition than the army and police were in Egypt.
* The Obama administration, spooked by the Saudi reaction to its position on Egypt, may indeed be less sympathetic towards another Arab uprising against a friendly ruler who provides useful geostrategic services to the United States: a base for the Fifth Fleet in the case of Bahrain, overflights right and quick passage for US warships through the Suez Canal in the case of Egypt.
* The Iran factor is crucial, in the eyes of both the United States and Saudi Arabia. No one doubts that a truly representative Bahraini government would be less hostile towards Iran, even if it does not embrace Tehran wholeheartedly. Any crack in the wall Washington has tried to build around Iran would be interpreted as a strategic defeat, including at home, where anti-Iranian sentiment runs high.
* The Bahraini monarchy is more important to Saudi Arabia than the Mubarak presidency was, and Saudi views count in the White House. Bahrain has many of the features of a Saudi protectorate, and the disruption of the status quo on its doorstep, within its sphere of influence, is a direct affront to Saudi authority. In this case, the Saudis, and the Bahraini ruling family in their train, may well decide to ignore American and other calls for restraint.
The next step is up to the Bahraini protest movement, which has shown remarkable resilience and seems determined to pursue its campaign. But given the polarization in Bahraini society, unfortunately along mainly sectarian Sunni-Shi’i lines, the country could face a more bitter and possibly more bloody conflict than in homogeneous Egypt. As in other restive Arab countries, the United States will shift its position according to its assessment of the probable outcome.
“First of all, for the last decade and up to a few weeks ago, Qaddafi had nothing but good press in the western world. He was trying in every way to prove that he was in no way a supporter of “terrorism” and wished only to be fully integrated into the geopolitical and world-economic mainstream. Libya and the western world have been entering into one profitable arrangement after another. It is hard for me to see Qaddafi as a hero of the world anti-imperialist movement, at least in the last decade.