Top 7 Ways Assassination Fails USA as Policy

By Juan Cole

Wikileaks has released a government assessment of drone strikes aimed at assassinating top leaders. The document urges such strikes, but is amazingly frank about the drawbacks. Below I consider the CIA’s cautions about the drawbacks of such assassination tactics in the context of the rise of Daesh (ISIS)

“Potential negative effects of HVT [high value target] operations include”:

“increasing the level of insurgent support,”

This happened with what is now Daesh (ISIS or ISIL). The US killed the leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in spring of 2006. His successor was Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who was killed by the Iraqi army in 2010. The new leader was Ibrahim al-Samarra’i, who styled himself Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and took over 42% of Iraq’s land area. Each assassination seems to have increased the level of insurgent report among Iraqi Sunnis.

“causing a government to neglect other aspects of its counterinsurgency strategy,”

The Shiite government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq failed to reach out to Sunni Arabs to include them in the new system. The alienated people of Mosul thus allied even with Daesh against al-Maliki.

“altering in surgent strategy or organization in ways that favor the insurgents,”

The heat in Iraq on Daesh caused the fighters to go off to Syria, instead. They were able to take and hold al-Raqqah Province there, allowing them to evolve into ordinary institutions.

“strengthening an armed group’s bond with the population,”

The USA/ Shiite leaders of Iraq scared the Sunni Arab population so badly, with its prejudice and discrimination, that it pushed them into the arms of al-Qaeda.

“radicalizing an insurgent group’s remaining leaders,”

Each al-Qaeda/ Islamic State leader has been more radical than his predecessor.

“creating a vacuum into which more radical groups can enter, and”

The US targeting of secular Iraqi opposition groups such as the 1920 Revolution Brigade and Jaysh Muhammad led the way for extreme fundamentalist Daesh to dominate that market.

—–

Related video:

CNN: “3 senior ISIS leaders killed in U.S. strike”

Cuba: Top 5 other Dictatorships with which US has Diplomatic Relations

By Juan Cole | —

The US sanctions on Cuba were justified by their supporters with reference to the Communist government’s human rights record. That record, bad as it is, however, cannot explain the sanctions. They are rather pique that Cuba defied American hegemony and corporate domination. The sanctions have not overthrown the government of Fidel Castro. They have imposed some hardships on ordinary Cubans.

Let’s consider dictatorial countries with which the US has diplomatic relations; some of them are actually very warm friendships, despite all the arbitrary arrests, censorship, etc. Some of them are even Communist! With Cuba, it had to be personal.

1. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy which doesn’t even allow political parties or any kind of public dissent.

Human Rights Watch reports:

“Saudi Arabia stepped up arrests, trials, and convictions of peaceful dissidents, and forcibly dispersed peaceful demonstrations by citizens in 2013. Authorities continued to violate the rights of 9 million Saudi women and girls and 9 million foreign workers. As in past years, authorities subjected thousands of people to unfair trials and arbitrary detention. In 2013, courts convicted seven human rights defenders and others for peaceful expression or assembly demanding political and human rights reforms.”

None of the opponents of diplomatic relations with Cuba has even once suggested that the US break off relations with Saudi Arabia over its medieval human rights practices. I therefore conclude that human rights does not drive this issue.

2. Zimbabwe. The US has diplomatic relations with the notoriously dictatorial government of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe and actually has given the country $400 million in humanitarian aid.

Human Rights Watch reports:

“Both the power-sharing government prior to August 2013 and the new administration have failed to amend repressive laws, such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), and the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act, which severely curtail basic rights through vague defamation clauses and draconian penalties. Failure to amend or repeal these laws and to address the partisan conduct of the police severely limits the rights to freedom of association and assembly.

Sections of AIPPA and POSA that provide criminal penalties for defamation, or for undermining the authority of, or insulting the president, have routinely been used against journalists and human rights defenders. Police often misuse provisions of POSA to ban lawful public meetings and gatherings. Activists and journalists continue to be wrongly prosecuted and charged under these laws. For instance, on May 7, police arrested Dumisani Muleya, editor of the Zimbabwe Independent, and Owen Gagare, its chief reporter, following the publication of an article on the security forces. The two were detained for eight hours, then charged with “publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the State.” ”

3. Belarus, a small eastern European country with a population of 9.5 million, which never made the transition to democracy after the fall of the Soviet Union. We have an embassy in Minsk, though the post of ambassador is right now unfilled (there is a charge d’affaires).

Human Rights Watch says:

“The human rights situation in Belarus saw little improvement in 2013. The state suppresses virtually all forms of dissent and uses restrictive legislation and abusive practices to impede freedoms of association and assembly. Journalists are routinely harassed and subjected to arbitrary arrests and detention. Eight political prisoners remain jailed. Those who have been released continue to face restrictions, ranging from travel limitations to inclusion in law enforcement agencies’ ‘watch lists’. Civil society groups cannot function freely. Belarusian courts sentenced two more people to death during 2013.

Media Freedom, Attacks on Journalists

Most media are state-controlled, and authorities harass the few independent journalists and outlets that remain. In 2013, police arrested 25 journalists as they covered public protests. Courts sentenced at least four to short-term detention following convictions on misdemeanor charges. The authorities frequently prohibit reporting on public marches and open court hearings.”

4. Sultanate of Brunei: The US has warm diplomatic relations and a US embassy there, despite its disregard for basic human rights

5. We actually have an embassy in Vietnam of all places: Human Rights Watch writes:

“The Vietnam government systematically suppresses freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and persecutes those who question government policies, expose official corruption, or call for democratic alternatives to one-party rule. Police harass and intimidate activists and their family members. Authorities arbitrarily arrest activists, hold them incommunicado for long periods without access to legal counsel or family visits, subject them to torture, and prosecute them in politically pliant courts that mete out long prison sentences for violating vaguely worded national security laws.

In 2012, police used excessive force in response to public protests over evictions, confiscation of land, and police brutality.

Land confiscation continues to be a flashpoint issue, with local farmers and villagers facing unjust confiscation of their lands by government officials and private sector projects. Those who resist face abuses from local authorities.”

If the US recognizes Vietnam and has an embassy there after all that happened between the two countries, it seems like a minor thing to have diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Related video:

Euronews: “A brief history of US-Cuba relations”

3 Problems Pakistani Politics has to Resolve after Grisly School Attack

By Juan Cole | —

Pakistan politics has been mired in stagnation for some time now. In September of 2013, Pakistan undertook the first successful civilian hand-off of power in its entire history. Then-president Asaf Ali Zardari was succeeded by the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Despite this milestone, Pakistan’s politics have been full of tumult ever since.

Small but significant political forces refused to accept the legitimacy of the victory of the Muslim League in the fall, 2013 parliamentary elections. What is odd is that on the whole it is not the previous ruling party, the Pakistan People’s Party, that charged electoral fraud but rather the Pakistan Tehrik-i Insaf (PTI or Pakistan Movement for Change) of former cricket star Imran Khan. Also disgruntled are elements on the Punjabi religious right, the neo-Sufi movement of Tahir Qadri. These two political tendencies have staged big rallies all over the country and in the capital of Islamabad demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Sharif, which is a little unlikely to happen. Meanwhile, some politicians and economists have complained that Imran Khan and Qadri are taking points off economic growth because of the turmoil they are fomenting.

Ironically, Nawaz Sharif himself set the precedent here, inasmuch as he led an effort to unseat President Zardari, with a long march from Lahore to Islamabad, and he gave speeches threatening revolution and pledging that Zardari would not serve out his five year term (he did).

So the first problem Pakistani politics has to resolve is losing elections gracefully. Al Gore probably actually won in 2000, but decided not to put the country through a highly divisive process by contesting Bush’s victory. Both Zardari and Sharif actually did win their elections in 2008 and 2013, but rivals refused to acknowledge it, undermining the legitimacy of the state. In a good sign, Imran is keeping politics out of his mourning for the dead children of Peshawar.

The military in Pakistan has been too interventionist in the country’s affairs. It was the branch of government that backed the Pakistani Taliban and the Haqqani Group terrorists. The officers believed that such paramilitary terrorist groups would protect Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

For years now, there has been large-scale blow-back from Pakistani military’s unhealthy obsession with extra–judicial means of power, including backing the Taliban and the Haqqani group even when they hit US interests in the country. Since July, the military has been fighting its former allies among the Pakistani Taliban, producing profound resentments among the neo-Taliban.

So the second problem in Pakistani politics is achieving a political culture in which the military is subordinate to elected officials, and in which the military ceases cooperating with paramilitary groups.

The third problem is that the Federally Administered Tribal areas or FATA need to be made a province and integrated into the Pakistani state. The standard of living of people in Waziristan is extremely low. Maybe some of the investment of China in Pakistan could be slotted for FATA. This is an area where some 800,000 people have been displaced by the Pakistani military campaign against militants in North Waziristan. There are torture facilities and bomb-making workshops. These need to be rolled up and FATA needs to be developed.

Related video:

AFP from last summer: “Pakistani army confident after North Waziristan offensive ”

Desperate Pakistani Taliban, on the ropes, attack Army School in Peshawar: Large scale Casualties

By Juan Cole | —

On Tuesday, six members of the Movement of Pakistani Taliban (Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan or TTP) invaded a school for children run by the Pakistani army in Peshawar

The Pakistani military counter-attacked, with early reports of dozens killed and wounded in the cross fire. Some of the Taliban were wearing suicide bomb vests, and a loud explosion was heard from one of the school buildings.

Unlike the hostage-taking in Australia, which was just a tragedy produced by a lone nut-job, the attack in Peshawar has geopolitical implications and really is the work of persons organized to pressure civilians on policy by routinely blowing them up–the very definition of terrorism.

The Pakistani “Taliban” are a little bit of a misnomer. The word means ‘seminary student,’ and many of those Afghans who flocked to Mulla Omar in the late 1990s actually studied Muslim law and other disciplines. But the so-called Pakistani Taliban are just uneducated men from the Mahsoud tribe in southern Waziristan, an agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas [FATA]. People in Waziristan are Pushtuns, an ethnic group with its own language. Most Taliban derive from that ethnicity. Pakistan’s dominant ethnic group is the Punjabis.

Some of the tribesmen of Mahsoud only declared themselves members of the “Pakistani Taliban” in the early zeroes, whereas the Afghan Taliban went back to the 1990s. Many observers believe that the TTP or Pakistani Taliban were behind the assassination on Dec. 27, 2007, of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Also in North Waziristan is the Haqqani group of terrorists, who had been with the US against the Soviet Union but in 2001 turned on the US as occupiers.

The ambiguities of FATA are enough for a hundred John LeCarre novels. The Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence is accused of having used or wanted to use the militant Pakistani Taliban and Haqqani group for its own purposes, laying down a marker on the future of Afghanistan.

In 2009, soon after he came to office, President Barack Obama twisted the arm of then Pakistani president Asaf Ali Zardari (the widower of Benazir Bhutto). He succeeded in getting Zardari to launch a major operation against the Pakistani Taliban for the first time. The Pakistani military targeted many of the Mahsoud in South Waziristan, driving others to North Waziristan. The campaign secured some urban areas.

Since July of this year, the Pakistani air force has been bombing positions of the TTP or Pakistani Taliban in North Waziristan. The more aggressive policy was adopted by Prime Minsiter Nawaz Sharif of the Muslim League. He appears to be trying to build bridges to Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani.

It is amazing that the US finally got what it wanted, a Pakistani government willing to send fighter jets to bomb the Pakistani Taliban. But that there has been almost no television coverage of this sea change.

*North* Waziristan had always been protected by military intelligence and so had become a haven for al-Qaeda offshoots. But in the past 6 months Pakistani army troops have killed nearly 2000 fighters and deeply disrupted what is left of the Pakistani Taliban. The group that took over the school complains of the perfidy of the government’s bombing.

So this school attack was the Pakistani Taliban taking revenge for the government’s disruption of their terrorist activities. This is not a sign of strength but of weakness, and they lashed out at a soft target. They are facing a major defeat. That is its significance.

Related video:

RT: “Taliban takes hundreds of students hostage in Pakistan school, scores killed”

The Banality of Terrorism: Sydney’s other Hostage Crisis, of 1984

By Juan Cole | —

IC doesn’t usually cover hostage-taking, since it is an artificial and manipulative criminal act. Any two-bit thug can grab someone off the street and push them into a car, and subsequently kill them. It doesn’t take intelligence or any other admirable quality, just brutishness.

One’s heart goes out to the Sydney hostages. But it is distressing to see the hostage-taker made 10 feet tall by the media and to have Daesh (which is what most Arabs derisively call ISIL or ISIS) invoked. He is likely not mentally well, and he is not evidence of Daesh’s reach. Just that sadists are willing to franchise just like purveyors of hamburgers.

[Update: The hostage taker was Iranian, and clearly just a wack job and career criminal; this guy said he converted to Salafism but that kind of switch is very rare & itself indicative of lone wolfism- would have been ostracized by family.]

In fact, Sydney had another hostage crisis, in 1984, in a bank. A formerly wealthy (secular) Turkish-Australian became unhinged at losing his fortune. Today’s incident is not more important than that one, which few now remember. Both of these hostage-takers were common criminals. Neither is a “terrorist.” Today’s Sydney hostage-taker is not representative of a new activity. He isn’t important, and ordering a black flag won’t make him so. The only one who can bestow recognition on this criminal is the mass media and the press. They shouldn’t do it.

Nor are Australia’s Muslims responsible for this maniac. All white people aren’t responsible for motorcycle gangs or white supremacist groups. No one has ever asked a white person on television, ‘why don’t you condemn the Aryan Nation?'” The mainstream or ‘unmarked’ ethnic identity in a society doesn’t suffer from guilt by association. It is only the minorities who do.

Criminals and gangsters should not be fetishized as “terrorists.” It is just a way for them to inflate their egos. People are violent and sadistic because they are violent and sadistic, not because they have any particular ideology. Sociologist Max Weber posited “elective affinity,” that two phenomena find one another. Maybe sadists and killers are attracted to groups with deviant ideologies that permit wanton violence.

Daesh is just a bunch of gangsters. They are smugglers and human traffickers and mass murderers. It is secondary that they deploy a language of political Islam. The Ku Klux Klan in the US thought of itself as Protestant White Knights. One reviewer of my book, Engaging the Muslim World, complained that I compared the Taliban to the KKK, on the grounds that the latter is a small group. But it wasn’t in American history always a small group. It captured the governorship of Indiana in the 1920s.

Nor is Daesh popular, nor does it find ideological acceptance. Almost nobody in the Middle East likes it, and the tiny percentages who do tell pollsters they approve may not even agree with many of its actions. The Bangalore food company executive who did massive twitter propaganda for Daesh, when presses, admitted he did not agree with all their policies, and allowed how he couldn’t go join up because he had to take care of his parents (didn’t the kids he encouraged to go die in Syria have parents?) A 2012 poll of Iraqi Sunnis found that 75% said religion and state should be separate. They are likely the most secular people in the Middle East. Just because Daesh has taken over Sunni Arab Iraq does not mean they have changed their mind on this issue. They just chose an assertive Sunni group like Daesh over being ruled by equally fundamentalist Shiites.

It is really unfortunate that the magnificent city of Sydney had its peace disturbed by this maniac. But he isn’t important, least of all geopolitically, and shouldn’t be built up otherwise.

—–

Related video:

AP: “Gunman Holding Hostages in Sydney Cafe”

Enter the Dragon: China offers Iraq Aerial Strikes on ISIL/ Daesh

By Juan Cole | —

The list of powers eager to see Daesh (what Arabs call ISIS or ISIL) defeated grew larger this weekend with a report in the Financial Times that Iraqi foreign minister Ibrahim Jaafari received a pledge from his counterpart Wang Yi that China would intervene against Daesh from the air. It was not clear whether China was offering to fly fighter jets or just programmed missile strikes.

China is heavily invested in Iraq’s petroleum sector. It is one of the world’s largest petroleum importers after the US, bringing in 6.1 million barrels a day. In addition, China has a restive population of Muslims in its northwest and is no doubt afraid of the influence on them of Daesh (Chinese Uigurs are fighting alongside militants in Syria). China is not OK with putting Chinese army troops on the ground, but, like President Obama, is willing to intervene from the air.

China says it will not join President Obama’s ad hoc coalition, and so any bombing runs the Chinese do will be unilateral and possibly poorly coordinated.

For China to bomb Daesh targets in the Sunni Arab areas would be an virtually unheard-of deployment of Chinese military might far from its borders.

In short, China is beginning to behave like a classic capitalist imperial country, intervening with military force to protect investments, markets and trade routes. In short, Beijing now has an interest in Iraq that seems to make it willing to deploy air power to defeat Daesh.

Those protesters who chant ‘no war for oil’ may have to develop colleagues in China, which has now has spheres of influence.

Related video:

The Diplomat: “China’s Role in the Middle East”

6 Reasons Lower Oil Prices won’t Stop Solar, Wind and Electric Cars

By Juan Cole | —

Some observers have alleged that lower oil prices will slow down the green energy revolution. This allegation is unlikely to be true even in the short term, and it is laughable in the medium to long term.

1. Solar and wind power are for electricity generation. For the most part, petroleum is not used to generate electricity. Some 70% of it is used for vehicular transportation. There are exceptions, such as Hawaii and Saudi Arabia. But both places have firm plans to move to solar; in the case of Saudi Arabia it is because the country’s leaders want to save the oil for export rather than burning it up at home.

2. It is therefore the price of coal and natural gas against which solar energy is competing. Natural gas prices are actually up slightly. In most of the US and in most of the world, solar panels are now grid parity with hydrocarbons. That is, if you were building new electricity generating capacity, you could do it as cheaply with solar panels as with a new gas or coal plant. Utility-scale solar costs can be as little nowadays as 4.3 cents per kilowatt hour, less than the natural gas equivalent. The price of petroleum is irrelevant to these considerations. Moreover, solar panels are now estimated to last for some 25 years. Once they are paid off, typically in 6 or 7 years, the fuel can be considered free, and they can not only make household electricity but also can fuel automobiles, for free. Hydrocarbons would have to be awfully cheap to compete with that.

3. Solar and wind power are still at the relative beginning of a rapid fall in manufacturing costs and efficiency improvements. Most current solar panels have an efficiency of less than 20%, i.e. they are transforming only a fifth of the photons that fall on them into electricity. But in the laboratory, scientists in Sydney have just achieved 40% efficiency. Northwestern University scientists used a different technique, of imprinting panels with grooves a la blu-ray discs to achieve similar results. I wonder if the two can be combined to get a tripling of current efficiency? Another possibility is to use less expensive materials such as perovskites, which would drop the price of the panels considerably. If real-world solar panels can be manufactured that are twice as efficient and half as expensive, it is pretty much game over for hydrocarbons. Some observers think this development is less than a decade away. Wind turbines have also seen big increases in efficiency and a drop in prices.

4. Basically, it is impossible for petroleum and natural gas prices to go anywhere but up in the medium to long run. The current fall in oil prices is mostly being driven by lower Chinese demand. But Asia is full of economies that will take up the slack over time. If most of the 1.3 billion Indians decided to drive automobiles and have air conditioning, they’d run through even the fracked hydrocarbons pretty quickly and would put enormous upward pressure on prices. Fossil fuels are relics of the past and they aren’t making any more of them, so they will run out eventually. In contrast, there is no place for solar and wind energy to go, with regard to costs, but down– because of the now-rapid pace of technological and materials innovation. The only question is when the threshold will be passed, when building a new solar plant is actually cheaper than continuing to operate an old coal or natural gas plant. Again, it could easily happen within a decade.

5. Critics underline that wind and solar only work part time as energy sources. Wind does not blow all the time, and the sun does not shine at night. Germany and Portugal, however, have shown how wind and solar can complement one another (winds often pick up at night, e.g.) if the grid is properly configured, which removes some of the problem. Computers can be used so that when there is more wind, other sources of power are scaled back until the wind subsides. Concentrated solar power plants can also used molten salt to store the sun’s energy. One such plant, now functioning in Arizona, continues to make electricity for 6 hours after sunset. Another such is being built in Nevada. But the really big next thing is more efficient, affordable household and car batteries, which may well be produced by Elon Musk’s Tesla gigafactory. Intermittency is not as big a problem as critics of renewables suggest, and it certainly will be less and less of a problem in coming years. If Tesla can increase battery efficiency by just one third, they’ll be able to put a $35,000 car on the road with a 200 mile range that can be recharged in only half an hour. More battery breakthroughs will make for a $25,000 car, and so forth. These battery improvements are coming, and coming fast, and it is irrelevant to them what the price of petroleum is.

6. Public opinion is rapidly shifting against oil, gas and coal. A recent USA Today poll found that 81% of Americans agree that the climate is changing; 60% believe that the changes are man-made, owing to burning hydrocarbons; and 71% believe that the way to deal with the problem is to turn to renewable energy! It is only a matter of time until we have a big ocean surge somewhere like Miami, produced by an antarctic ice shelf falling into the sea, which will impel many consumers to go green, even at a premium. A lot of Americans will increasingly find it unconscionable for us to burn coal. We are only at the beginning of conscience-buying. In all of the US, only about 86,000 electric cars (the majority being plug-in hybrids) were sold in 2014. That is so few that the number could well expand substantially just among environmentalists. People buy cars in part to impress their friends, and people with green friends want EVs. It isn’t just about the price of gasoline. But on the cost issue, it bears repeating that if you combine an electric vehicle with rooftop solar panels, after you pay off the panels you could get much of your fuel for free, which rather beats the average $2.60 a gallon to which gasoline has fallen on average in the US.

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Arirang: South Korean solar power is back!

Top 5 Planks of 2016 GOP Platform? Torture, War, Bank Corruption, Paid-For Elections

By Juan Cole | —

This week, the release by the Senate of a report on torture as practiced in the zeroes by the CIA, along with Thursday night’s dramatic vote on an omnibus spending bill, laid bare the shape of the GOP platform in 2016. (Some Democrats were dragooned into voting for the spending bill, but key provisions or riders were clearly inserted by the GOP). However much the party or its members deny it, the practical actions and concrete words of party leaders make clear their priorities.

1. With a few noble exceptions like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Republican Party spokesmen, Republican politicians, and Republican media like Fox Cable News, defended torture. This defense was mounted from so many directions by so many Republicans that it now seems indisputable that the party stands for the principle of rectal hydration. Since torture is illegal in American law, presumably they want to repeal the 5th and 8th amendments to the constitution.

2. The Republican Party stands for the principle that elections should be stolen by the rich who pay the most for them. The new bill multiplies permitted donations by a factor of ten.

3. The GOP wants the US taxpayer to be made to bail out risky, casino-like “derivatives.” After the 2008 crash, caused by some corrupt Wall Street financiers stealing our money, Congress had removed FDIC protection from the riskier derivatives. The GOP, plotting in smoke filled rooms far from the light, just put the taxpayer right back in the sights the next time the bankers need a bailout. The provision was actually written by CitiBank, which won’t get my business. They think, much better to gamble with the taxpayers’ money; they would, but why would GOP lawmakers agree to be their ventriloquist’s dummy?

4. The bill blocks aid to the Palestine authority if it becomes a member of UN agencies without Israeli permission. Palestine has been recognized as a non-member observer state at the UN, and is gradually joining key committees. It likely will sign the Rome Statute, join the International Criminal Court, and sue Israel for war crimes. But in the fantasyland of Congress, none of this may be allowed to happen. The PA has other sources of money than the US, and all this provision does is further weaken the ability of the US to do effective diplomacy.

5. This fall, most Republicans ran on putting troops back into Iraq and getting even more deeply involved in the Syrian civil war than the US already is. This is a plank in their platform that leads to sanguinary wars.

These, then, are the major issues on which the GOP is running for the presidency in 2016. They underline that the party represents the 3 million wealthiest Americans, and has no scruples that might interfere in doing exactly what the 1% tells them to do.

But do these planks really amount to the platform Americans want to vote for in 2016? On the surface, no. But time shall tell.

——

Related video:

WCVB Channel 5 Boston “Sen. Elizabeth Warren bashes bill favoring big banks”

The Trial of Richard Bruce Cheney

By Juan Cole | —

Satire alert :

The hall at the International Criminal Court in the Hague was packed today as the trial began of former US Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney [they always give all three names of suspected felons in the newspaper.]

The ICC justices begin with the first charge, that Mr. Cheney ordered the torture practiced by the Central Intelligence Agency on over 100 prisoners, 21% of them later recognized to have been falsely accused. Prisoners were abused anally, waterboarded, slammed against walls, threatened, an arm was broken, one died from exposure. Mr. Cheney denied that these techniques were torture, to the astonishment of sitting senators. And he continues to advocate the continuation of these methods.

Cheney’s attorneys object. “Your honors, there is no evidence that Cheney ordered torture.”

One of the judges leans over the bench. “Is it not true that Mr. Cheney told NBC News on September 16, 2001, “We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will.”?

Attorney: “That is not proof that he ordered torture.”

Judge: “He used the first person plural, “we,” and he used the imperative, “have to.” The very grammar indicts him. Moreover, he said in 2011 that he continued strongly to urge the use of waterboarding on prisoners. He is committed to the dark side.”

Attorney: “Waterboarding is ambiguous.”

Judge: “The US tried and hanged Japanese war criminals for waterboarding.”

Attorney: “Those individuals actually carried out waterboarding. They did not simply advocate their use.”

Judge: “Julius Streicher was quite rightly hanged after the Nuremberg Trials for having done no more than write newspaper articles urging crimes against humanity.”

Attorney: “Surely you are not calling Dick Cheney a fascist and war criminal?”

Judge: “Let us move on to the next charge. Mr. Cheney launched a war of aggression on Iraq, under false pretenses, that was illegal in international law and has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths.”

Attorney: “The vice president feared Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.”

Judge: “Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, and UN inspectors continually said so. In any case, there are only two grounds for war in the United Nations charter: 1) self-defense and 2) UN Security Council authorization of the use of force against a danger to world order. Iraq did not attack Mr. Cheney’s country, and the UNSC did not authorize the use of force.”

Attorney: “The US Congress authorized the war.”

Judge: “Unfortunately for your client, we consider that to be just another war crime by a different branch of government, not exculpatory.”

Attorney: “Mr. Cheney was not the commander in chief and could not order that war. George W. Bush was on top of the issues and in complete control.”

Judge: “Now you are just saying silly things.”

Attorney: “It was worth a try.”

Judge: “They kept Cheney informed of the torture program but not George W. Bush or Colin Powell. This was Cheney’s baby. Not only did Mr. Cheney launch an illegal war of aggression, he set off a chain of further crimes. The Nuremberg judgement observed, “To initiate a war of aggression . . . is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” Mr. Cheney is also responsible for the torture at Abu Ghraib, for massacres of non-combatant populations, and for the displacement of 4 million Iraqis. He made a fifth of the country homeless and created millions of orphans and widows.

Attorney: “There is no evidence that Cheney ordered any of those things.”

Judge: “Did he advocate them?”

Attorney: “Hmm.”

Judge: “Well?”

Attorney: “I’m thinking, I’m thinking.”

Judge: “You are stalling. What about the outing of Valerie Plame, the CIA undercover field officer whose cover Mr. Cheney blew? Did not President George H. W. Bush say, “Even though I am a tranquil guy now at this stage of my life, I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are in my view the most insidious of traitors.”? ”

Attorney: “That was Richard Armitage and Bob Novak.”

Judge: “Cheney was the one who ordered Scooter Libby and other staffers to attempt to out Ms. Plame. They assiduously called journalists with this story. It was materials they left lying around that came to Mr. Armitage’s attention. It was only an accident that Novak ran with the story before one of Mr. Libby’s journalistic contacts could be convinced.”

Attorney: “Outing a CIA officer is not a crime in international law, only in US law.”

Judge: “We’ll be sure to forward the dossier to the US authorities.”

Attorney: “The US authorities already dismissed Ms. Plame’s suit on the grounds that Cheney was just doing his job.”

Judge: “That is why we are holding these proceedings at the Hague.”

—–

Related video:

TheLipTV: “CIA Torture Report Exposes Bush + Cheney War Crimes”

Israel, Egypt Implicated in Torture: Middle East Reactions to Senate Report lament own Involvement

By Juan Cole | —

That the release in Washington of a dense 450 page report on CIA torture conducted a decade ago would provoke massive demonstrations in the Middle East all along struck me as unlikely. It could perhaps provoke small terrorist groups affiliated with al-Qaeda, but those groups are already plotting out attacks on US embassies and it is a little unlikely that they would suddenly be more motivated by this report, which doesn’t contain anything they did not already know or suspect.

Washington has invented its own ersatz Middle East, which bears little resemblance to the actual one, and which is mainly used to score points in inside-the-Beltway debates.

Most Egyptians appear to have been traumatized by the year (2012-2013) of Muslim Brotherhood rule, and support for the Brotherhood is likely at an all time low. They have been quite unfairly branded a terrorist organization, and groups much to their right, such as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and al-Qaeda itself are even more unpopular and are pursued by the powerful Egyptian military. Many Egyptian youth have demonstrated against torture, and most of them don’t like it when applied to Egyptians by the military government. But since there isn’t much sympathy in Egypt for extremist fundamentalism, most Egyptians would be neither surprised nor particularly outraged that the US was torturing al-Qaeda types.

One initial reaction to the Senate report was an article in the Cairo press drawing on remarks of expatriate Egyptians, which pointed out that Egypt has been implicated in the CIA black site torture. That is, rather than anger toward the US, this article implicitly criticizes the government of then president Hosni Mubarak in Egypt itself, both for torturing and for doing it on behalf of the United States. Another such article in Tahrir News covered the whole torture scandal, So far, the main Egyptian reaction seems to be vindication that they overthrew the torturing, toadying government of Mubarak.

Meanwhile, another major US ally, Israel, was also implicated. The left-leaning daily Haaretz reported that the CIA torturers justified their actions with regard to Israeli Supreme Court rulings on the permissibility of torture.

====

Related video added by Juan Cole:

Social TV: ” Ishai Menuchin – On Torture in Israel”