Monday, May 18, 2009

Military-Driven Empire Building

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Is Obama's New Afghan Commander a Violator of the Geneva Conventions?
By Tom Hayden, TheNation.com
May 20, 2009
http://www.alternet.org/story/140136/
According to reliable intelligence sources in Washington, General Stanley McChrystal, slated to become the top American commander in Afghanistan, directed an entity known as the Terrorist Screen Center (TSC) in Iraq in 2003, which held Iraqi suspects in secret facilities in violation of the Geneva Conventions requirement that the Red Cross have access to all detainees.
The TSC existed before the Abu Ghraib prison scandal exploded in 2004, during a period when the United States, as an occupying power, fell under the Geneva obligation to provide Red Cross access.
McChrystal's appointment could be threatened if an investigation establishes his direction over the secret facilities. Under international law, delayed access for the Red Cross can be justified only due to a "military necessity," such as extreme battlefield conditions, a far different scenario from detaining and interrogating prisoners in secret locations.
McChrystal has been reprimanded by the Pentagon before. A 2007 Pentagon investigation found McChrystal responsible for falsifying a claim that blamed the 2004 death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman on "devastating enemy fire." Tillman died of friendly fire.
In addition, Bob Woodward's 2008 book The War Within describes McChrystal as responsible for running a "top secret" 2006 program of extra-judicial killings of alleged Iraqi insurgents. Nearly all of McChrystal's five-year tenure in Iraq was spent in clandestine operations.
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Ed. Note: The following article by Gareth Porter from IPS offers background on McChrystal's troubling military career.
US choice hardly McChrystal clear
By Gareth Porter, IPS News
WASHINGTON - The choice of Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal to become the new United States commander in Afghanistan has been hailed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and national news media as ushering in a new unconventional approach to counter-insurgency. But McChrystal's background sends a very different message from the one claimed by Gates and the news media. His long specialization in counter-terrorism operations suggests an officer who is likely to have more interest in targeted killings than in the kind of politically sensitive counter-insurgency program that the Barack Obama administration has said it intends to carry out. In announcing the extraordinary firing of General David McKiernan and the nomination of McChrystal to replace him, Gates said that the mission in Afghanistan "requires new thinking and new approaches by our military leaders" and praised McChrystal for his "unique skill set in counter-insurgency".
Media reporting on the choice of McChrystal simply echoed the Pentagon's line. The Washington Post said his selection "marks the continued ascendancy of officers who have pressed for the use of counter-insurgency tactics, in Iraq and Afghanistan, that are markedly different from the Army's traditional doctrine".
The New York Times cited unnamed "Defense Department officials" in reporting, "His success in using intelligence and firepower to track and kill insurgents, and his training in unconventional warfare that emphasizes the need to protect the population, made him the best choice for the command in Afghanistan."
The Wall Street Journal suggested that McChrystal was the kind of commander who would "fight the kind of complex counter-insurgency warfare" that Gates wants to see in Afghanistan, because his command of special operations forces in Iraq had involved "units that specialize in guerilla warfare, including the training of indigenous armies".
But these explanations for the choice of McChrystal equate his command of the special operations forces with expertise on counter-insurgency, despite the fact that McChrystal spent his past five years as a commander of special operations forces focusing overwhelmingly on counter-terrorism operations, not on counter-insurgency.
Whereas counter-insurgency operations are aimed primarily at influencing the population and are primarily non-military, counter-terrorism operations are exclusively military and focus on targeting the "enemy".
As commander of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) from April 2003 to August 2008, he was pre-occupied with pursuing high-value al-Qaeda targets and local and national insurgent leaders in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan - mostly through targeted raids and airstrikes.
It was under McChrystal's command, in fact, that JSOC shifted away from the very mission of training indigenous military units in counter-insurgency operations that had been a core mission of special operations forces.McChrystal spent an unusual five years as commander of JSOC, because he had become a close friend of then-secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld came to view JSOC as his counter to the covert operations capabilities of the Central Intelligence Agency, which he hated and distrusted, and Rumsfeld used JSOC to capture or kill high-value enemy leaders, including Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda's top leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
In 2005, JSOC's parent command, the Special Operations Command (SOCOM), was directed by Rumsfeld to "plan, synchronize and, as directed, conduct global operations against terrorist networks in coordination with other combatant commanders". That directive has generally been regarded as granting SOCOM the authority to carry out actions unilaterally anywhere on the globe.
Under that directive, McChrystal and JSOC carried out targeted raids and other operations against suspected Taliban in Afghanistan which were not coordinated with the commander of other US forces in the country. General David Barno, the US commander in Afghanistan, has said that he put a stop to targeted airstrikes in early 2004, but they resumed after he was replaced by McKiernan in 2005.
US airstrikes which have caused hundreds of civilian deaths have become a major political issue in Afghanistan and the subject of official protests by Afghan President Hamid Karzai as well as by the lower house of the Afghan parliament. Many of the airstrikes and commando raids that have caused large-scale civilian deaths have involved special operations forces operating separately from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization command.
Special operations forces under McChrystal's command also engaged in raiding homes in search of Taliban suspects, angering villagers in Herat province to the point where they took up arms against the US forces, according to a May 2007 story by Carlotta Gall and David E Sanger of the New York Times.
After a series of raids by special operations forces in Afghanistan in late 2008 and early 2009 killed women and children, to mounting popular outrage, McChrystal's successor as commander of JSOC, Vice Admiral William H McRaven, ordered a temporary reduction in the rate of such commando raids in mid-February for two weeks.
However, the JSOC raids resumed at their original intensity in March. Later that month, the head of the US Central Command General David Petraeus issued a directive putting all JSOC operations under McKiernan's tactical command, but there has been no evidence that the change has curbed the raids by special operations forces.
Obama's National Security Adviser General James Jones responded to Karzai's demand for an end to US airstrikes by saying, "We're going to take a look at trying to make sure that we correct those things we can correct, but certainly to tie the hands of our commanders and say we're not going to conduct air strikes, it would be imprudent."
The airstrike in western Farah province that killed nearly 150 civilians last week, provoking protests by hundreds of university students in Kabul, was also ordered by special operations forces.
McChrystal's nomination to become director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon in May 2008 was held up for months while the Senate Armed Services Committee investigated a pattern of abuse of detainees by military personnel under his command. Sixty-four service personnel assigned or attached to special operations units were disciplined for detainee abuse between early 2004 and the end of 2007.
Captain Carolyn Wood, an operations officer with the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, gave military investigators a sworn statement in 2004 in which she said she had drawn guidance for interrogation from a directive called "TF-121 IROE," which had been given to the members of Task Force 121, a unit directly under JSOC.
However, the military refused to make that document public, despite requests from the American Civil Liberties Union and other human rights groups, protecting McChrystal from legal proceedings regarding his responsibility for detainee abuses.
He was never held accountable for those abuses, supposedly because of the secrecy of the operation of the JSOC.Although he has been linked with detainee abuses and raids that kill numbers of civilians, McChrystal has not had any direct experience with the non-military elements of such a strategy.
W Patrick Lang, formerly the defense intelligence officer for the Middle East, suggested in his blog on Monday that the McChrystal nomination "sounds like a paradigm shift in which Obama's policy of destroying the leadership of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan takes priority over everything else".
The choice of McChrystal certainly appears to signal the administration's readiness to continue special operations forces' raids and airstrikes that are generating growing opposition by Afghans to the US military presence.
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Obama's Animal Farm: Bigger, Bloodier Wars Equal Peace and Justice
By Prof James Petras
URL of this article: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=13644
Global Research, May 17, 2009
“The Deltas are psychos...You have to be a certified psychopath to join the Delta Force...”, a US Army colonel from Fort Bragg once told me back in the 1980's. Now President Obama has elevated the most notorious of the psychopaths, General Stanley McChrystal, to head the US and NATO military command in Afghanistan. McChrystal's rise to leadership is marked by his central role in directing special operations teams engaged in extrajudicial assassinations, systematic torture, bombing of civilian communities and search and destroy missions. He is the very embodiment of the brutality and gore that accompanies military-driven empire building. Between September 2003 and August 2008, McChrystal directed the Pentagon's Joint Special Operations (JSO) Command which operates special teams in overseas assassinations.
The point of the ‘Special Operations' teams (SOT) is that they do not distinguish between civilian and military oppositions, between activists and their sympathizers and the armed resistance. The SOT specialize in establishing death squads and recruiting and training paramilitary forces to terrorize communities, neighborhoods and social movements opposing US client regimes. The SOT's ‘counter-terrorism' is terrorism in reverse, focusing on socio-political groups between US proxies and the armed resistance. McChrystal's SOT targeted local and national insurgent leaders in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan through commando raids and air strikes. During the last 5 years of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld period the SOT were deeply implicated in the torture of political prisoners and suspects. McChrystal was a special favorite of Rumsfeld and Cheney because he was in charge of the ‘direct action' forces of the ‘Special Missions Units. ‘Direct Action' operative are the death-squads and torturers and their only engagement with the local population is to terrorize, and not to propagandize. They engage in ‘propaganda of the dead', assassinating local leaders to ‘teach' the locals to obey and submit to the occupation. Obama's appointment of McChrystal as head reflects a grave new military escalation of his Afghanistan war in the face of the advance of the resistance throughout the country.
The deteriorating position of the US is manifest in the tightening circle around all the roads leading in and out of Afghanistan's capital, Kabul as well as the expansion of Taliban control and influence throughout the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Obama's inability to recruit new NATO reinforcements means that the White House's only chance to advance its military driven empire is to escalate the number of US troops and to increase the kill ratio among any and all suspected civilians in territories controlled by the Afghan armed resistance.
The White House and the Pentagon claim that the appointment of McChrystal was due to the ‘complexities' of the situation on the ground and the need for a ‘change in strategy'. ‘Complexity' is a euphemism for the increased mass opposition to the US, complicating traditional carpet ‘bombing and military sweep' operations. The new strategy practiced by McChrystal involves large scale, long term ‘special operations' to devastate and kill the local social networks and community leaders, which provide the support system for the armed resistance.
Obama's decision to prevent the release of scores of photographs documenting the torture of prisoners by US troops and ‘interrogators' (especially under command of the ‘Special Forces'), is directly related to his appointment of McChrystal whose ‘SOT' forces were highly implicated in widespread torture in Iraq. Equally important, under McChrystal's command the DELTA, SEAL and Special Operations Teams will have a bigger role in the new ‘counter-insurgency strategy'. Obama's claim that the publication of these photographs will adversely affect the ‘troops' has a particular meaning: The graphic exposure of McChrystal's modus operendi for the past 5 years under President Bush will undermine his effectiveness in carrying out the same operations under Obama.
Obama's decision to re-start the secret ‘military tribunals' of foreign political prisoners, held at the Guantanamo prison camp, is not merely a replay of the Bush-Cheney policies, which Obama had condemned and vowed to eliminate during his presidential campaign, but part of his larger policy of militarization and coincides with his approval of the major secret police surveillance operations conducted against US citizens.
Putting McChrystal in charge of the expanded Afghanistan-Pakistan military operations means putting a notorious practitioner of military terrorism – the torture and assassination of opponents to US policy – at the center of US foreign policy. Obama's quantitative and qualitative expansion of the US war in South Asia means massive numbers of refugees fleeing the destruction of their farms, homes and villages; tens of thousands of civilian deaths, and eradication of entire communities. All of this will be committed by the Obama Administraton in the quest to ‘empty the lake (displace entire populations) to catch the fish (armed insurgents and activists)'.\
Obama's restoration of all of the most notorious Bush Era policies and the appointment of Bush's most brutal commander is based on his total embrace of the ideology of military-driven empire building. Once one believes (as Obama does) that US power and expansion are based on military conquests and counter-insurgency, all other ideological, diplomatic, moral and economic considerations will be subordinated to militarism. By focusing all resources on successful military conquest, scant attention is paid to the costs borne by the people targeted for conquest or to the US treasury and domestic American economy. This has been clear from the start: In the midst of a major recession/depression with millions of Americans losing their employment and homes, President Obama increased the military budget by 4% - taking it beyond $800 billion dollars.
Obama's embrace of militarism is obvious from his decision to expand the Afghan war despite NATO's refusal to commit any more combat troops. It is obvious in his appointment of the most hard-line and notorious Special Forces General from the Bush-Cheney era to head the military command in subduing Afghanistan and the frontier areas of Pakistan.
It is just as George Orwell described in Animal Farm: The Democratic Pigs are now pursuing the same brutal, military policies of their predecessors, the Republican Porkers, only now it is in the name of the people and peace. Orwell might paraphrase the policy of President Barack Obama, as ‘Bigger and bloodier wars equal peace and justice'.
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