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The War on Terror

wtc burning 9-11 terrorism

The War on Terror, started by the US government as a response to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks and later joined by other governments, has had and continues to have grave consequences for the human rights of their citizens and of citizens of other countries. This is a high price for an uncertain gain.

However, before I list these consequences, I would like to make it clear that I believe, as any rational human being, that terrorism is evil, that it has to be destroyed and that democracies have a right to defend themselves against violent, anti-democratic fanatics (see this post).

I also believe that democratic governments should be especially vigilant because the freedoms that they are elected to protect, offer opportunities for those who hate freedom, opportunities that do not exist in other political systems. Potential terrorists find it relatively easy to enter a democracy and operate in it. A democracy is a very vulnerable form of government because of the freedom it gives to everyone, even those who don’t mean well.

red scare terrorism

(source)

The freedoms of a democracy can be and are abused, but this, it seems, has frightened democratic governments to such an extent that they have decided to limit these freedoms up to the point that they are in danger of abandoning their values, and hence doing the work of the terrorists for them. It can be acceptable to limit certain rights for the protection of other rights (see also this post), but the right to security has taken on an absolute priority, at the expense of all other rights. There is no reasonable balance anymore. Some have called the war on terror a “war on freedom” (source).

1. Civil liberties

Governments try to defend their countries against terrorist attacks by limiting civil liberties in their territories.

  • The right to privacy has been limited: CCTV has become ubiquitous, DNA databases have been created, eavesdropping and wiretapping have been legalized etc.
  • “No-fly-lists” have come into force, limiting the freedom of movement of even those who have written critically of the government or attended peace-protests.
  • Hate speech laws have been voted to silence jihadist hate preachers, silencing others at the same time.
  • “Racial profiling” by the police has turned innocent people into possible suspects, often inversing the burden of proof.
  • Habeas corpus has been limited, periods of detention without charge extended, sometimes indefinitely (for “enemy combatants”).

However, in spite of all this, the constraints on a government’s actions within its territory are sometimes still considered to be inhibiting:

  • “Extraordinary rendition” has been covertly practiced, allowing suspects to be tortured outside of the territory by professional torturers in other countries.
  • Extra-territorial prisons have been created, in Guantanamo, but probably elsewhere as well, where suspects can be tortured or held indefinitely and where the Geneva Conventions supposedly don’t apply.

geneva convention, convention against torture

(source)

2. Mentalities

The war on terror has also changed people’s minds and attitudes.

  • The media have started to censor themselves. Solidarity with the government at war and the commander-in-chief, or the fear of being perceived as unpatriotic, appeasers, “useful idiots” or even open allies of the enemy has turned them into uncritical supporters of the war.
  • Citizens have turned on Islam and Muslims. Xenophobia and more specifically islamophobia have undermined the ideals of tolerance and multiculturalism, and have in certain cases even led to hate crimes against Muslims.
  • A ”culture of fear” has been created by the terrorist but also nurtured by irresponsible western politicians. This fear has damaged democracy. Not only have the media relinquished their traditional role as watchdogs. Politicians as well, and especially incumbents, have abused the fear of terrorism to harness support. Alert levels seem to go up just before elections.

3. Preemptive war

The US government has elaborated and implemented the strategy of preemptive war, a war

waged in an attempt to repel or defeat a perceived inevitable offensive or invasion, or to gain a strategic advantage in an impending (allegedly unavoidable) war. (source)

The Iraq war was deemed a preemptive war because Iraq was allegedly about to attack the US with weapons of mass destruction, or supply these weapons to terrorists. Whatever the merits of the case against Iraq – and with the passing of time these seem to become weaker and weaker – the war has been framed, correctly or not, as a necessary stage in the ongoing war on terror. It has, however, resulted in massive numbers of casualties on both sides. The human rights violations caused by the war stand in no relation to the violations caused by terrorism or the violations that could have been caused by Saddam.

In any case, you can’t solve the problem of terrorism by violent means only. Terrorism has causes, and there will be terrorism as long as these causes exist. (Mind you, I don’t want to excuse or justify terrorism).

war remover of terrorism

(source)

4. Counter-productive

It is now widely believed, even in US government circles, that the war on terror is counter-productive. Especially the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the torture in Abu Ghraib and the detentions in Guantanamo have produced a backlash and have increased rather than reduced the terror threat. The 2007 National Intelligence Estimate issued the following among its “key judgments”:

The Iraq conflict has become the “cause celebre” for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. (source)

The war on terror has created and exacerbated resentment, hatred of the West and anti-americanism. And with anti-americanism often comes hatred of democracy and freedom and Islamic radicalization. Apart from the removal of the Taliban in Afghanistan, there is no evidence that any of the strategies in the war on terror has done any good (source).

5. Misnomer

There is something fishy about the concept of a “war on terrorism”. This “war” is in fact no such thing. It is in essence crime prevention and law enforcement. There is no well-defined enemy. Anyone can at any time become an enemy. For this reason, there is no conceivable end to the war. And if you claim to wage a war on terrorism, you might as well claim to wage a war on carpet bombing. Both are tactics or strategies, not something you wage war against.

If you insist on calling anti-terrorist actions a war, then you give too much credit to the riffraff you’re opposing. Rather than deranged criminals they can call themselves soldiers. And soldiers defend something. You legitimize them. You turn a crime into a two-sided struggle in which each side defends its positions. This in turn leads to the view that the war on terror is a war of the West against the rest, bringing back images of colonialism, imperialism and the crusades, again legitimizing the terrorists, helping to consolidate their often internally opposed forces, and making them honorable in the eyes of ordinary citizens outside of the West.

war on terror graffiti

(source)

I can understand that the concept of a “war on terrorism” is useful for the executives in the West, because an executive that is at war has more powers, less oversight, more popular support and less criticism, but it’s a meaningless and dangerous concept. Let’s give it up.

http://filipspagnoli.wordpress.com/2008/08/06/human-rights-facts-52-the-war-on-terror/

RNC Media Intimidation Condemned

RNC Media Intimidation Condemned

by Jeffrey Allen

MINNEAPOLIS – Police and local and federal officials in St. Paul, Minnesota are under fire from independent media groups for their crackdown on reporters at this week’s Republican National Convention.

[Television and radio host Amy Goodman was one of several journalists arrested this week. (© bignoisetactical (YouTube))]Television and radio host Amy Goodman was one of several journalists arrested this week. (© bignoisetactical (YouTube))

“We are concerned that police in St. Paul prevented journalists from covering a breaking story,” said Committee to Protect Journalists Executive Director Joel Simon on Tuesday. “We urge authorities to drop any pending charges and allow journalists to continue with their work.”The New York-based group, which monitors media suppression around the world, condemned the arrest of four journalists who were documenting the confrontational end to an otherwise peaceful antiwar protest on the opening day of the Convention.

Well-known television and radio personality Amy Goodman, host of the nationally syndicated program Democracy Now!, was arrested when inquiring about the condition of camerawoman and producer Nicole Salazar and sound technician Sharif Abdel Kouddous.

In a video of Goodman’s arrest, onlookers can be heard in the background calling for police to “release the accredited journalists now.”

Salazar shot footage of her own arrest, where she can be heard shouting “press! press!” as she is shoved to the ground by baton-wielding police who ran directly at her and told her to “get the hell out of here!” Once on the ground, the police repeatedly yell at Salazar to “get down on your face.” The camera flips over, recording three screams — apparently from Salazar — and then cuts off. [Watch Salazar describe her detention]

A fourth journalist, Associated Press photographer Matt Rourke, was also arrested during the protest. All four journalists were released within hours of their arrest, though several had their press passes confiscated, apparently by federal Secret Service agents.

“It was very clear who I was,” Goodman told media after her release. “I had all my credentials hanging from my neck. ‘Look —  these are my credentials,’ I said. A Secret Service agent walked up to me and said, ‘Oh really?’ and ripped my credentials off my neck.”

Kouddous told the Committee to Protect Journalists that the same agent also confiscated his daily press pass.

Distinguishing Between Press and Protesters

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists called on police and local and federal officials to “respect the First Amendment right to free speech and free press of journalists doing their job.”

“In this era of new technology and broader participation in citizen and independent journalism, it may become increasingly difficult for police to tell journalists from those who are not,” the group said. “But police must be aware it is their duty to try, and to respect the role of the press in a democracy. When the media has credentials, as was the case with Goodman and other journalists arrested, the police should have a much easier job.”

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), meeting this week in Atlanta, said: “Police have a duty to protect and serve the public. So, too, do journalists serve the public interest. SPJ doesn’t object to the police stopping violence. Rather, we are merely alarmed by the disconcerting trend of journalists being treated as if they are a threat to public safety, when they are clearly fulfilling their roles as professional reporters.

Media Intimidation Alleged

The nonpartisan media reform group Free Press has said Monday’s arrests were part of “an orchestrated round up of independent [media] covering the Republican National Convention.”

Police also raided a home where independent journalists were staying over the weekend before the Convention began. The journalists were working for a media organization known for documenting police crackdowns against protesters, especially during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City.

I-Witness Video’s documentary work helped to get charges dropped against over 400 people arrested during the 2004 Convention, according to Elizabeth Press, who works with the group and was in the house that was raided over the weekend. Police surrounded the house for several hours on Saturday, while waiting for a warrant to arrive.

When the warrant arrived, it was for the adjoining apartment in the duplex house, but the police entered the apartment where the journalists were staying anyway — through an attic door. The police then detained the journalists for approximately an hour, along with those in the adjoining apartment, including the owner of the duplex house, and searched the journalists’ belongings.

“I feel like it’s an intimidation tactic,” Press told The UpTake, a live video documentary group that is also keeping tabs on protests and police activity during the Convention. “I-Witness Video has been in the news lately — in the New York Times, and all over the Internet.”

During the previous week, I-Witness Video’s colleagues in Minneapolis had their computer and video equipment seized, said the group’s Eileen Clancy, in a report filed during Saturday’s raid.

And on Wednesday, offices being rented by I-Witness Video for its work during the Convention were entered by police wielding batons and a battering ram. Officers said they had reports of anarchists taking hostages within the building.

An attorney working in the building, Geneva Finn, showed the officers around to clarify that there were no hostages being held.

“[The officers] did a pull-up on the frame of I-Witness’ door, looked in, saw that there were people in there — nobody was being held hostage,” said Finn during an impromptu press conference after the incident. “I then asked the police to leave, since no one was obviously being held hostage here, and they refused. Eventually their head sergeant came here, and decided that they could leave the building.”

I-Witness Video was subsequently asked by their landlord to leave the premises due to the police attention they had attracted.

“The St. Paul police came after us with unfounded allegations that we were engaged in criminal behavior.  This harassment has interfered with our ability to do the work of documenting the policing of protests that we have come to St. Paul to do,” the group said in a statement.

50,000 Demand Press Freedom

“We condemn the arrest and harassment of journalists before and during the Republican National Convention,” said Free Press executive director Josh Silver. “We call on the mayor, district attorney, and police chief to rein in the overly aggressive — and even violent — tactics of law enforcement. Arresting and detaining journalists for doing their jobs is a gross violation of free speech and freedom of the press.”

In just over 2 days, Silver’s group has gathered over 50,000 names on a petition to the mayor’s office, the Republican National Convention Host Committee, and other local officials demanding an end to the aggressive and violent tactics used against journalists in recent days.

“Reporting by independent journalists is the only way for the American public to learn the full story, and they must be free to do their jobs without intimidation,” Silver added.

RNC Media Intimidation Condemned

RNC Media Intimidation Condemned

by Jeffrey Allen

MINNEAPOLIS – Police and local and federal officials in St. Paul, Minnesota are under fire from independent media groups for their crackdown on reporters at this week’s Republican National Convention.

[Television and radio host Amy Goodman was one of several journalists arrested this week. (© bignoisetactical (YouTube))]Television and radio host Amy Goodman was one of several journalists arrested this week. (© bignoisetactical (YouTube))

“We are concerned that police in St. Paul prevented journalists from covering a breaking story,” said Committee to Protect Journalists Executive Director Joel Simon on Tuesday. “We urge authorities to drop any pending charges and allow journalists to continue with their work.”The New York-based group, which monitors media suppression around the world, condemned the arrest of four journalists who were documenting the confrontational end to an otherwise peaceful antiwar protest on the opening day of the Convention.

Well-known television and radio personality Amy Goodman, host of the nationally syndicated program Democracy Now!, was arrested when inquiring about the condition of camerawoman and producer Nicole Salazar and sound technician Sharif Abdel Kouddous.

In a video of Goodman’s arrest, onlookers can be heard in the background calling for police to “release the accredited journalists now.”

Salazar shot footage of her own arrest, where she can be heard shouting “press! press!” as she is shoved to the ground by baton-wielding police who ran directly at her and told her to “get the hell out of here!” Once on the ground, the police repeatedly yell at Salazar to “get down on your face.” The camera flips over, recording three screams — apparently from Salazar — and then cuts off. [Watch Salazar describe her detention]

A fourth journalist, Associated Press photographer Matt Rourke, was also arrested during the protest. All four journalists were released within hours of their arrest, though several had their press passes confiscated, apparently by federal Secret Service agents.

“It was very clear who I was,” Goodman told media after her release. “I had all my credentials hanging from my neck. ‘Look —  these are my credentials,’ I said. A Secret Service agent walked up to me and said, ‘Oh really?’ and ripped my credentials off my neck.”

Kouddous told the Committee to Protect Journalists that the same agent also confiscated his daily press pass.

Distinguishing Between Press and Protesters

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists called on police and local and federal officials to “respect the First Amendment right to free speech and free press of journalists doing their job.”

“In this era of new technology and broader participation in citizen and independent journalism, it may become increasingly difficult for police to tell journalists from those who are not,” the group said. “But police must be aware it is their duty to try, and to respect the role of the press in a democracy. When the media has credentials, as was the case with Goodman and other journalists arrested, the police should have a much easier job.”

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), meeting this week in Atlanta, said: “Police have a duty to protect and serve the public. So, too, do journalists serve the public interest. SPJ doesn’t object to the police stopping violence. Rather, we are merely alarmed by the disconcerting trend of journalists being treated as if they are a threat to public safety, when they are clearly fulfilling their roles as professional reporters.

Media Intimidation Alleged

The nonpartisan media reform group Free Press has said Monday’s arrests were part of “an orchestrated round up of independent [media] covering the Republican National Convention.”

Police also raided a home where independent journalists were staying over the weekend before the Convention began. The journalists were working for a media organization known for documenting police crackdowns against protesters, especially during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City.

I-Witness Video’s documentary work helped to get charges dropped against over 400 people arrested during the 2004 Convention, according to Elizabeth Press, who works with the group and was in the house that was raided over the weekend. Police surrounded the house for several hours on Saturday, while waiting for a warrant to arrive.

When the warrant arrived, it was for the adjoining apartment in the duplex house, but the police entered the apartment where the journalists were staying anyway — through an attic door. The police then detained the journalists for approximately an hour, along with those in the adjoining apartment, including the owner of the duplex house, and searched the journalists’ belongings.

“I feel like it’s an intimidation tactic,” Press told The UpTake, a live video documentary group that is also keeping tabs on protests and police activity during the Convention. “I-Witness Video has been in the news lately — in the New York Times, and all over the Internet.”

During the previous week, I-Witness Video’s colleagues in Minneapolis had their computer and video equipment seized, said the group’s Eileen Clancy, in a report filed during Saturday’s raid.

And on Wednesday, offices being rented by I-Witness Video for its work during the Convention were entered by police wielding batons and a battering ram. Officers said they had reports of anarchists taking hostages within the building.

An attorney working in the building, Geneva Finn, showed the officers around to clarify that there were no hostages being held.

“[The officers] did a pull-up on the frame of I-Witness’ door, looked in, saw that there were people in there — nobody was being held hostage,” said Finn during an impromptu press conference after the incident. “I then asked the police to leave, since no one was obviously being held hostage here, and they refused. Eventually their head sergeant came here, and decided that they could leave the building.”

I-Witness Video was subsequently asked by their landlord to leave the premises due to the police attention they had attracted.

“The St. Paul police came after us with unfounded allegations that we were engaged in criminal behavior.  This harassment has interfered with our ability to do the work of documenting the policing of protests that we have come to St. Paul to do,” the group said in a statement.

50,000 Demand Press Freedom

“We condemn the arrest and harassment of journalists before and during the Republican National Convention,” said Free Press executive director Josh Silver. “We call on the mayor, district attorney, and police chief to rein in the overly aggressive — and even violent — tactics of law enforcement. Arresting and detaining journalists for doing their jobs is a gross violation of free speech and freedom of the press.”

In just over 2 days, Silver’s group has gathered over 50,000 names on a petition to the mayor’s office, the Republican National Convention Host Committee, and other local officials demanding an end to the aggressive and violent tactics used against journalists in recent days.

“Reporting by independent journalists is the only way for the American public to learn the full story, and they must be free to do their jobs without intimidation,” Silver added.

George Washington, Under the Bus

George Washington, Under the Bus

The AP is reporting that Barack Obama is back to his old tricks of implying that anyone who does not support him, or dare criticize him is a horrible racist.  I think this time though, he may have gone too far.  While speaking on the campaign trail, Obama had the audacity to actually try to distance himself from the founding fathers of our country:

Democrat Barack Obama, the first black candidate with a shot at winning the White House, says John McCain and his Republican allies will try to scare them by saying Obama “doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.”

When asked by reporters if he was “playing the race card” Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs simply replied, “No”.  So then, what did Obama mean?

“What Barack Obama was talking about was that he didn’t get here after spending decades in Washington,” Gibbs said.

That’s right, because both Washington and Lincoln became President after spending decades as “Washington insiders”.  Washington even had the nerve to name the city after himself.  Oh, wait, maybe that’s not right…

1790–Congress moves the capital from New York to Philadelphia for ten years. After that, the federal government is to move to a permanent site on the Potomac River selected by Washington, who is trusted by both North and South

So Washington, President from 1788-1796, never even lived in Washington, it didn’t even exist while he was president…hmm.  Well he did help PLAN the city, so maybe that is the same thing.   I think it is clearly obvious that Obama absolutely was race-baiting with his comments.  What other attribute would he be talking about that makes him different from these great men that he would want to point out, other than race?

But it also reinforces some other ugly things that people close to him have said about our country.  First Michelle Obama said, in reference to her husbands bid for the presidency, ”for the first time in my adult lifetime I am really proud of my country…”,  and then we heard his pastor of twenty years say, “The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God Bless America.’ No, no, no, God damn America, that’s in the Bible for killing innocent people”.  It is starting to look like Obama has very different view of what it means to love your country.  And it includes bashing our founding fathers, blaming Americans of killing innocent people, accusing anyone who disagrees with you of racism…oh and why not throw in disrespecting our injured troops by basking in the limelight of the lapdog press rather than visiting them and boosting morale.  And for good measure, let’s throw in a close associate who shows his love of country by posing for photos like this:

I have never been one of those to overtly proclaim my patriotism or wield it as a weapon against people who disagree with me politically, much like Bush did in the 2004 election.  And I’ve never agreed with those who would make flag-burning un-constitutional. But I do love my country, and I do expect anyone even considering running for President to not only be patriotic in the extreme, but to respect our country’s history, symbols, and the sacrifices of the men and women who founded it, and continue to protect it.

Obama may think he found a clever way to imply that anyone who opposes him is racist.  His lackeys have been going out of their way to do the same thing.  Just take a look at what the exalted atrios posted on his site yesterday (although I always thought that he, along with digby, have always been prime examples of the snobbery and elitism that has made the “progressive blogosphere” insufferable–who knew he was a race-baiting tool too):

He’s An Uppity Negro Who Wants To Fuck Your SisterIt is the path that the McCain camp has chosen. They’re allowed. But if the word “presumptuous” comes out of the mouth of a journalist one more time I’m gonna go Elvis on the teevee.

Veeery classy, asshole.  I’m thinking he gets his kicks by being able to say such racist crap due to the atmosphere created by the Obama campaign.  This sort of nastiness is spreading, and contrary to what they say, it is not an “open discussion about race”.  A caller on NO WE WON’T last night mentioned Whoopi Goldberg’s disgusting tirade recently on The View.  What on Earth was she thinking?  If you don’t want other people using racial epithets, how bout not using it repeatedly on a popular daytime program when CHILDREN are apt to be watching you.  Jeez these people are about as tone deaf as a doorknob.

So today we got a twofer from Barack.  He plays the race card and bashes America’s founding fathers in one fell swoop.  It begs the question,  if Obama is so repulsed by Washington, the presidency and the country, why does he want the job other than to destroy it?  This man does not deserve to be anywhere remotely close to the White House.

Of course the irony is that while he doesn’t like the sight of the money, he sure loves the smell of it.

Your Handy-Dandy Guide To White House Corruption

Your Handy-Dandy Guide To White House Corruption

July 26, 2008 · 1 Comment

Are you confused by the tangled web of criminal indictments, subpoenas and investigations going on against the White House? The hiring and firing of Justice officials, the destruction of CIA interrogation tapes, the use of persuasive torture to interrogate and wiretapping? Misleading the country and Congress into going to war? Whewwww. It isn’t easy. Luckily, Slate has an interactive Venn Diagram to help you understand the crimes and who has been implicated in each.

Click pic for Slate's chart.

Click pic for Slate’s chart.

Slate was a goldmine today. Apparently if you want to get into the hearts and minds of our White House political-criminal element you have to… watch 24’s Jack Bauer?

Anyone watching both the White House and Fox saw the correlations between the two. Prior to now, however, I had believed it was the administration which had inspired the television show. Apparently, thats not the only case. Slate has recorded a number of different instances in which White House officials cited the show 24 with the CIA vigilante. Ironic as the excitement of the show is precisely in the lawlessness of it. Here are some excerpts.

…According to British lawyer and writer Philippe Sands, Jack Bauer—played by Kiefer Sutherland—was an inspiration at early “brainstorming meetings” of military officials at Guantanamo in September of 2002. Diane Beaver, the staff judge advocate general who gave legal approval to 18 controversial new interrogation techniques including water-boarding, sexual humiliation, and terrorizing prisoners with dogs, told Sands that Bauer “gave people lots of ideas.”…

…Michael Chertoff, the homeland-security chief, once gushed in a panel discussion on 24 organized by the Heritage Foundation that the show “reflects real life…”

…Even Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, speaking in Canada last summer, shows a gift for this casual toggling between television and the Constitution. “Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. … He saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” Scalia said. “Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?”…

…U.S. interrogators rarely if ever encounter a “ticking time bomb,” someone with detailed information about an imminent terror plot. But according to the Parents’ Television Council (one of several advocacy groups to have declared war on 24), Jack Bauer encounters a “ticking time-bomb” an average of 12 times per season. Given that each season allegedly represents a 24-hour period, Bauer encounters someone who needs torturing 12 times each day!..

…If you’re a fan of 24, you’ll enjoy The Dark Side. There you will meet Mamdouh Habib, an Australian captured in Pakistan, beaten by American interrogators with what he believed to be an “electric cattle prod,” and threatened with rape by dogs. He confessed to all sorts of things that weren’t true. He was released after three years without charges. You’ll also meet Maher Arar, a Canadian engineer who experienced pretty much the same story, save that the beatings were with electrical cables. Arar was also released without explanation…

Wow.

http://outtheotherear.wordpress.com/2008/07/26/your-handy-dandy-guide-to-white-house-corruption/