Saturday, March 21, 2015

Cops get $4 million after killing black man

In 2010, George Diego and Allan Corrales of the Los Angeles Police Department shot and killed an unarmed black man, Steven Eugene Washington. The case was one of several high-profile shootings that activists protesting under the auspices of “Black Lives Matter” brought up with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck when they met with him in January: Washington had been walking down Vermont Avenue, minding his own business, when Diego and Corrales drove by in their cruiser, deemed said walking suspicious, and shot him in the head, telling investigators that they feared his cell phone was a gun; the phone wasn’t even in his hand, but it was dark and so was he and so the officers were placed on desk duty instead of being fired.

The officers did have their day in court, though – they sued, alleging discrimination. Would a white cop who kills an unarmed black man get stuck behind a desk or would they get a promotion and be hailed as a hero on AM radio? A jury ruled in their favor, awarding over $4 million to the two killer cops whose only punishment had been getting to keep their jobs as police while facing none of the risks cops cite to justifying killing civilians.

God damn America.” – Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Is the CIA deliberately funding Al Qaeda?

On March 14, The New York Times published an article entitled, "C.I.A. Cash Ended Up in Coffers of Al Qaeda," detailing how the government of Afghanistan used "a secret fund that the Central Intelligence Agency bankrolled" to help pay a $5 million ransom to Al Qaeda, which had kidnapped an Afghan diplomat. Responding to the headline, those who suggest the US government is deliberately funding Al Qaeda in order to create an enemy whose existence it can then cite to justify intervention chortled at the Times' use of the passive voice. "Oh, come on," the marginalized conspiracy theorists groaned, "it just 'ended up' in their hands, now did it?"

The New York Times often runs terrible headlines, but I would suggest that those who believe this article, based on documents that were reportedly recovered in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, provides evidence for their theory that the United States is funding Al Qaeda on purpose, are quite mistaken
And the see-through-the-spectacle analysis they apply to Washington? It could also be applied to one of its long-time foes, were their analysis coherent and consistent. Reading past the headline, one discovers that while the Afghan government did indeed take $1 million from that secret fund to pay off an Al Qaeda ransom, "$4 million more [was] provided from other countries." Pakistan "contributed nearly half the ransom," the paper notes, while the remainder that didn't come from the CIA "came from Iran and Persian Gulf states, which had also contributed to the Afghan president’s secret fund."

Are we to believe the Islamic Republic of Iran is deliberately funding Al Qaeda as well? Not only did it help pay the ransom, it contributed to the same secret slush fund as the CIA. That money just "ended up" in the hands of a group whose existence Tehran has cited to justify intervening in both Syria and Iraq? Yes, actually: I don't believe the evidence that's not the case is any stronger with respect to Iran than it is with respect to the United States.

If Washington (or Tehran) wanted to fund Al Qaeda, it wouldn't need to go the indirect route of dropping bags of cash outside Hamid Karzai's office in Kabul in the hope that some of it would in turn, on occasion, be used to pay off 20 percent of a ransom: It could just end its policy of not paying the ransoms itself. Many have called for it do just that and it would be far from alone in doing so.

"Paying Ransoms, Europe Bankrolls Qaeda Terror," The New York Times reported last July, noting that Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland have all paid ransoms directly to Al Qaeda and its affiliates: $165 million since 2008, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, and $66 million in 2013 alone. "Only a handful of countries have resisted paying," the Times observed, "led by the United States and Britain." If the U.S. empire really does have a deliberate policy of funding Al Qaeda, this stance is perplexing: Here is a clear and convenient opportunity to hand over millions of dollars to extremists, openly, in a way that much of the public would find morally defensible, and it's not . . . because? I'm sure someone has a theory -- I just doubt it's any good.

This ain’t ‘anti-imperialism’

Ah, 2003: When opposing imperialism meant opposing imperialism, not simply denying the existence of evil in the world or, worse yet, defending it as good and just. The warmongers' claim that opponents of invading and destroying Iraq were mere apologists for Saddam Hussein? Oh, grow up, you neocon creep. Where were you when Ronald Reagan was arming the guy? These “apologists” you speak of, George Galloway perhaps excepted, are not actually a thing, pal.

To be young again . . .

These days, most anti-imperialists still hold to the idea that opposing the dropping of bombs does not require simply ignoring or excusing the crimes of any nation-state that is not currently allied with the criminal regime in Washington. Being against war does not, actually, require that one reflexively defend war criminals – a word justly applied to those who would bomb and starve Palestinians, for instance, be they in Gaza or Yarmouk – under the infantile reasoning that raising awareness complicates the antiwar cause. Moral credibility is the anti-imperialist's strongest card and it's lost forever when dead children in one place demands all of our outrage while in another conspicuous silence is seen as the only way to be effectively antiwar, or the only way to not be an imperialist, even, which can get confusing: Is this sectarian death squad backed by America or Iran? Both? Damn, this is hard.

If you're an American, it makes sense to focus on American war crimes and support for them, but it also strikes me as increasingly indefensible to simply ignore the humanitarian crisis in Syria, to name one glaring example, where nearly a quarter million are dead and millions more living in destitution as refugees, because the man most responsible for the killing, hereditary dictator Bashar Assad, is not on good terms with the White House that feeds him intelligence on its bombing campaign against the Islamic State. What's become clear is that some who were the biggest critics of George W. Bush are some of the biggest defenders of Assad's "war on terror," every atrocity at worst the regrettable consequence of fighting "imperialism" and "jihadists," though the vast majority of victims are civilians and not all Sunnis with guns are members of ISIS.

To these sorts, the war in Syria is but an abstraction -- the West vs. a perhaps unsavory (though secular and moderate!) dictator -- but let's take a look at what is actually being defended by amoral "anti-imperialists":

What's seen in this video is what happened on March 16, 2015, in the town of Sarmin, where eyewitnesses report that “Syrian armed forces helicopters dropped four barrels containing [chlorine] gas," as noted by Amnesty International. A hundred people were exposed: “a small number of fighters from the Free Syrian Army armed group, but the vast majority . . . civilians,” including a an entire family with three small children that suffocated to death. As in every war, those who suffer the most are not the imperialists or the butchers who justify their butchery in the name of anti-imperialism, but innocent men, women and children. This sort of incident is no anomaly in Syria, though typically the atrocity is carried out the humane and enlightened way: with conventional weapons that tear people limb from limb.

“I saw body parts everywhere,” one resident of Raqqa told Amnesty after the Syrian military bombed a crowded marketplace there. “I carried 40 bodies to cars, ambulances and pick-ups that transferred them to [hospitals].” In the span of two weeks last November, regime airstrikes on the Islamic State-occupied city, in “most cases” on non-military targets, killed up to 115 civilians, including 14 children – more than the U.S.-led airstrikes on ISIS have killed in over six months (Syria's state news agency hasn't reported on civilians killed by either U.S. or Syrian bombs).

Again, even if one were to believe all that is claimed from Assad's apologists and the vulgar reductionists of the reactionary "left," the vast majority of people the Syrian government is killing aren't “jihadists” or “imperial proxies” or “Contras,” but Syrian civilians: 176,000 of them, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, on which the United Nations relies for such statistics; though the Islamic State boats of its crimes, more people have allegedly been killed by the regime snipers (5,761) than the social media-savvy terrorists. And according to Physicians for Human Rights, “The Syrian government is responsible for 88 percent of the recorded hospital attacks and 97 percent of medical personnel killings, with 139 deaths directly attributed to torture or execution.”

If one takes these numbers with an iceberg of salt – which would be fair enough given the fog of war in a country where journalists are denied access by the government and killed by ISIS – the overall picture is fairly clear and the idea that this picture is the product of a State Department fabulist is more than just an absurdity, it's an insult. Rather than denial, anti-imperialists ought to own the fact that a lot of evil can be perpetrated without the direct support of the U.S. empire -- and that the only thing that could make Syria even worse at this point would be an imperial “liberation" by way of airstrikes on the regime or Marines on the ground.

Skepticism is certainly warranted when allegations are made about a state the American empire doesn't like, but one can be skeptical without being an apologist who white-washes war crimes and baits as an "imperialist" anyone who doesn't believe every dead baby is the product of a rebel false flag. If I were a young intelligence officer (let me stress that: if) trying to come up with a PsyOp to discredit the anti-war left, though? I would suggest doing just that. There's no better way to tar anti-imperialists as rank apologists than having anti-imperialists become rank apologists.

Friday, March 13, 2015

From the killing fields to a prison cell

"The next 5 to 10 years are going to be a shit show." That's what an attorney who represents military veterans with PTSD told me when I asked him about veterans treatment courts, which are intended to deal with the particular issues facing alleged criminals who were turned into killers by their government. He's a fan of those courts, which let veterans avoid prison by undergoing treatment, and would like to see them flourish -- anything that keeps people from experiencing incarceration is a good thing -- but he says the worst is yet to come, even with these courts: The most troubled veterans aren't the ones currently getting arrested, but the ones still in special forces overseas masking their deep emotional problems by engaging in continual combat. Instead of committing crimes at home, they are committing them abroad -- but someday they will come home and bring their troubles with them. War: It Keeps Killing Long After It's Over.

On that uplifting note, check out the piece I wrote on this topic for TakePart. And happy Friday!