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Jesse Curtis Morton: May 21, 2012 (Tragedy of the Drone: The Long-term Costs of Obama’s Favorite Weapon)

In the immediate aftermath of the recent Boston bombings, many commentators compared the crime scene to an IED explosion on the Iraq and Afghanistan frontiers. Those comparisons ceased as soon as the perpetrators were confirmed to be Islamic terrorists, a conscious effort by the establishment to retain the notion that America’s war on terror is winding down. Or it may have been part of a pernicious cognitive dissonance in American culture, one that refuses to acknowledge any link between the threat of Islamic terrorism domestically and U.S. foreign policy. The mainstream press may have revealed that the surviving bomber, Jawed Tsarnaev [sic], identified Iraq and Afghanistan as motivating factors but its commentary hardly made any connection to what has increasingly become an elephant in the room- a growing link between the reliance of U.S. drone strikes and the rise of Isalmic radicalization, both homegrown and abroad. It is time to acknowledge this connection and conversate about its long-term ramifications before it is too late.

Immortal Bostonian Robert Kennedy once remarked, amidst the debacle of Vietnam, that “tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.” The shadow overhanging America’s sustained war of terror, its blunders in Afghanistan and Iraq, represent similar tragedy. Like Vietnam, they damaged not only America’s military but the make-up of its domestic society and its international reputation. Unlike Vietnam, it seems these alterations may prove permanent. The Obama administration, in its efforts to reestablish global prominence, has used drone attacks as a primary means of fighting a more strategic, perpetual war. One aimed to move on from tragedy by altering the perception that the U.S. is an occupying force in the Muslim world. A special, covert war designed to accompany other indirect efforts that so too betray the very principles that facilitated the U.S.’s own rise to international prominence not so long ago.

Drone attacks kill large numbers of civilians. They stretch the confines of international law. They endanger a sense of security, first for those abroad where citizens reports, “drone attacks are always on my mind” and then in domestic society where retaliation is feared. They aid radicals in recruitment and are damaging America’s diplomatic leverage. These issues may have serious long-term consequences and hinder relations with a rapidly altering Muslim world. The short-term benefits are also not to be minimized. There is a very real threat to the U.S. homeland but pondering the potential costs of what has become Obama’s favorite weapon poses the prospect that future observers will hardly hold Obama’s legacy as a return to wisdom, but rather as an unwitting facilitation of the tragedy of perpetual war.

Honest reflections on U.S. foreign policy oftentimes induce an uncomfortable awareness of a coarse American hubris, something Peter Beinert classifies in his book on the subject as, “our false innocence and unearned pride.” The use of drones should hearken to a deeper hypocrisy associated with the unequal application of the principle of law, an exceptionalism that has plagued the American experience through its national conquest, slavery, and major international wars. Drone attacks are, in many ways, the epitome of this contradiction. A few weeks before the tragic attacks in Boston, a NATO airstrike mistakenly dropped a bomb in Afghanistan that killed 10 children and nearly 50 civilians. However, because the American public is particularly disinterested in coverage of that floundering war, the act went by barely mentioned. We know none of the victims names and few are even aware of its occurrence. While NATO troops were not deliberately targeting the civilians and while that does nothing to justify horrendous crimes of barbarity like the one committed in Boston, the distinction in coverage should be sufficient to initiate contemplation about the world we’re forging going forward.

Alongside that disregarded event in Afghanistan, a debate about the increasingly clandestine approach to war has escalated at home. Unfortunately, that debate has more to do with efforts to normalize the use of drones through a more transparent, legal framework and less to do with the consequences for foreign civilians or an acknowledgement of the unequal application of the rule of law. In a March 12, 2013 meeting between President Obama and Democratic Senators, Jay Rockefeller confronted the administration for refusing to share legal memos that outlined the legal justification for its drone campaign, including the assassination of American citizens. Only a week before that, three democratic senators protested the confirmation of John Brennan as CIA director. Brennan, one of the drone program’s most ardent defenders, possesses the “playbook,” a classified initiative that seeks to permenately codify the present operating procedures of the “targeted killing” program. One of those democratic senators, Ron Wyden, would join Rand Paul’s 13-hour tirade demanding a promise that Obama would never use drones against Americans on U.S. soil.

The Boston attacks temporarily diverted public attention from Rand Paul’s filibuster, but senate hearings on April 22 revived the debate. In those hearings, Senator Dick Durbin, chairman of the Constitution subcommittee emphasized that, “there are long-term consequences, especially when the airstrikes kill innocent civilians; that’s why many in the national security community are concerned that we may be undermining our counterterrorism efforts if we do not carefully measure the benefits and costs of targeted killing.” Still, the preponderant view is that mere transparency is sufficient. As Senator Lindsey Graham described it, “if you want to talk about transparency, count me in.” Conversation about the drone program has also increased in the news and has become a hot topic on the internet.

The heightened public controversy started last spring, when Obama administration officials deliberately leaked information to the NY Times about Obama as “executioner in chief,” perusing “kill lists” on “Terror Tuesday’s” and in an effort to portray him as tough during the run-up to reelection. That was followed by Obama’s first explicit acknowledgement of the drone program’s existence. At the time the announcement went well. No conservatives criticisized the use of drones during the presidential campaign. The U.S. expanded its arenas of drone operation. The ACLU demanded evidence for the targeting of Anwar Awlaki, the American citizen killed in Yemen. Then a report from Stanford and NYU law schools found that 881 civilians – 175 of them children – had been killed. The public started to contemplate the consequences. Politicians followed. Massive protests over an anti-Muslim film, terrorism in Benghazi, Algeria and elsewhere, resentment of U.S. failure to intervene in Syria, malaise in the lands of the Arab Spring, frustration over Afghanistan and other events kept relations with the Muslim world in clear view. Now, 13 years after its inception, a debate about the drone program’s secrecy is advancing.       Read the rest of this entry »


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Challenges to the unlawful and extrajudicial murder of 16 year old Abdurrahman al-Awlaki has spurred two legal cases from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

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Posted by on October 16, 2012 in Uncategorized


#PalHunger | Winning the battle of empty stomachs: hunger striker Bilal Diab interviewed by @LinahAlsaafin

Occupied Palestine | فلسطين

Bilal Diab (left) with Khader Adnan upon Diab’s release from Israeli prison, 9 August 2012.

(Saif Dahlah / AFP/GettyImages)

Twenty-seven-year-old Bilal Diab, one of the “Eight Knights” as dubbed by famous hunger striker Khader Adnan, engaged in a prolonged hunger strike inside an Israeli prison that lasted for 77 days.

Since his arrest in August 2011, Diab was held without charge or trial — a practice known as administrative detention. Diab’s detention was renewed on 27 February 2012 for an additional six months; immediately following the detention renewal, Diab began an open-ended hunger strike in protest and for the sake of freedom.

A couple of months later, a mass hunger strike began on 17 April, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, and ended on the eve of Nakba Day, 14 May, when Palestinians commemorate…

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Posted by on September 16, 2012 in Uncategorized


Prison sentences against cell members in Belgium

Prison sentences against cell members in Belgium for recruiting jihadists to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan

27/06/2012 – The federal court in Brussels, Belgium, yesterday (26/06/2012) issued prison sentences against members of a cell accused of terrorism and recruitment of jihadists to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The defendants denied their relationship to terrorism but the federal prosecutors acknowledged their relationship with al-Qaeda.

The men were arrested on November 2010 and weapons and publications that support Qaeda and calls for jihad in Islamic countries were found in their possession.

The court sentenced Ali Tabich, 38, the leader of the group, to eight years on charges of recruiting fighters in Belgium and for suspicion of his involvement in 2005 in the ranks of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Abdul Rahman was also sentenced to eight years on charges of terrorism and broadcasting videos on extremist sites on the internet.

The court sentenced issue a five-year sentence to the Imam of the group Ali Olivier Group Dacey and a three-year prison sentence against Samer Azwaj, where he acknowledged that Ali Tabich sent him to Syria, but denied his desire to go to combat zones.



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Posted by on July 2, 2012 in Uncategorized


A firsthand account of the court proceedings in the case of Youssef El-Khodri in relation to the prison uprising in Meknes, Morocco.

The statement of the detainee Youssef El-Khodri during the court hearing on the 8th March 2012.


For such news the heart ought to die of grief

If it has any Faith or Belief

The statement of the detainee Youssef El-Khodri during the court hearing on the 8th March 2012.

The judge summoned Youssef El-Khodri and asked him did he ascend to the roof of the prison or not. Youssef El-Khodri replied by saying, before I answer your question I wish to tell you that a baton similar to that carried by those guards, was used to beat me across my head and on my feet when I was taken to Toulal 2 prison in Meknes.

After that in Ramadan one of the brothers, Abdullah Al-Manfa’a was reciting the Quran. The guards asked him to stop doing so, he refused. Thus he was punished severely by being…

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Posted by on March 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

A statement from the Islamist detainees in Moroccan prisons


“But they never lost assurance due to what afflicted them in the cause of Allah, nor did they weaken or submit. And Allah loves the steadfast.”

In the time in which we – the Salafi Jihadist prisoners – were waiting under the new government for the implementation of the Agreement signed on the 25th of March 2011 whereby it outlined that all the detainees shall be released eventually in groups. We see that there is a serious backtracking, which was embodied in the modest release of the three Shaykhs, on the day of the Mawlid.

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Posted by on February 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

Statement by Shaykh Umar Al-Hadushi after his release

“All the brothers will be released”

“But you must place between your eyes that the decree of Allah is what will happen, so enough of the fear! enough of the cowardice!”

“If you would to be imprisoned for your faith, it is much better than to live in this lost world that will end”

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Posted by on February 21, 2012 in Uncategorized