A major snow storm in effect with seven inches of snow already on the ground, fireplace roaring in the background, an ultra large mug of traditionally brewed Darjeeling tea sitting next to my pc, and my now 17 month old daughter playing right in front of the window where she can have a full view of the winter wonderland, make up the personal side of my update for this Saturday.
As for site updates, not much to report. Our site traffic this week was simply amazing, which is what it takes to get me going and make my ambitious to-do list even longer and more outrageous than it already is!
Peter B and I had a very interesting and informative string of interview sessions: Daniel Ellsberg, Nafeez Ahmed, and Andy Worthington. There will be no new interview posted next week, since I’ll be taking a real break from my computer for a few days starting on Wednesday, Dec 23. After that, I still have our interview with Mark Klein (AT&T-NSA) to post, and after that we’ll have the new year series starting with Dan Ellsberg.
I’ve been working with two producer-editor friends on a very exciting new project for Boiling Frogs Post. We’re planning to produce and publish an exclusive online documentary series, and we are already rolling! I won’t give out too much here, but in a month or so we’ll have much more to report on this. Stay tuned.
Now, here are a few items of interest:
Obama’s Preferred Killing Machines: Drones, drones, and more drone attacks
President Obama and his hawks are planning to increase the number of drone attacks. Since the new administration has taken office, the campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan, which ironically began during the final months of the Bush administration, has intensified significantly. The US establishment media’s reporting on this issue has been limited to cursory and ultra-shallow pieces with a cosmetic line or two to give the effect of covering all sides; I’m sure all are vetted, approved, and dictated by the usual puppet masters. Absent in almost all these reports are: the real number of civilian casualties and the implications, and the real assessment of the purpose and effectiveness of our new president’s preferred killing machines in our undeclared wars.
Let me give you a few examples and a bit of a context:
Here are a few excerpts from L.A. Times reporting on this:
Senior U.S. officials are pushing to expand CIA drone strikes beyond Pakistan's tribal region and into a major city in an attempt to pressure the Pakistani government to pursue Taliban leaders based in Quetta.
Okay, so that’s the introduction. They sanitize the real purpose with key words: Taliban Leaders. They want the reader to take that as the purpose. Next is this:
The proposal has opened a contentious new front in the clandestine war. The prospect of Predator aircraft strikes in Quetta, a sprawling city, signals a new U.S. resolve to decapitate the Taliban. But it also risks rupturing Washington's relationship with Islamabad.
As you can see it is indirectly, but not very subtly, justifying and cheering the drone attacks. Pay special attention to the following: ‘A new U.S. Resolve’- As in a strong, determined new administration, and ‘decapitate the Taliban’- as in wiping out the big bad evil shalvars-wearing curly-bearded cavemen who have been somehow declared, without technically being declared, as the terrorists and culprits in 9/11.
The side effect, the only tiny side effect aka risk cited is: oh it may put a little dent in our relationship with Pakistan.
The propaganda piece published by the stenographers at LA Times first offers the mike to the proponents of upping the killing machines:
The concern has created tension among Obama administration officials over whether unmanned aircraft strikes in a city of 850,000 are a realistic option. Proponents, including some military leaders, argue that attacking the Taliban in Quetta -- or at least threatening to do so -- is critical to the success of the revised war strategy President Obama unveiled last week.
As for the opponents, they only site the possibility of some dents on our relationship with Pakistan:
But others, including high-ranking U.S. intelligence officials, have been more skeptical of employing drone attacks in a place that Pakistanis see as part of their country's core. Pakistani officials have warned that the fallout would be severe.” We are not a banana republic," said a senior Pakistani official involved in discussions of security issues with the Obama administration. If the United States follows through, the official said, "this might be the end of the road."
And finally, the stenographers continue with this glowing report on this now widely popular war machine strategy, albeit stating a false and unproven success record:
The CIA has carried out dozens of Predator strikes in Pakistan's tribal belt over the last two years, relying extensively on information provided by informant networks run by Pakistan's spy service, Inter-Services Intelligence.
The campaign is credited with killing at least 10 senior Al Qaeda operatives since the pace of the strikes was accelerated in August 2008, but has enraged many Pakistanis because of civilian casualties.
The so-called report conveniently omits the number of civilian casualties, the ratio between the actual targets hit and the innocents murdered, the real cost, and the implications when it comes to probable violation of sections 4 and 5 of Article 51, which prohibits attacks that treat military and civilian objects as one and the same. Yap, as always, the establishment media provides zip zip zilch on all the important facts and issues that really matter. Now, please read this propaganda trash that is being marketed by not only the L.A. Times stenographers but almost all the other establishment propaganda machines collectively referred to as the US Media.
Now, let’s look at some facts and reality points involving these drone attacks our new president seems to be so enamored with:
The US Drone Attacks, its Casualties, and the Implications
How long have we been hearing and reading glowing reports by our establishment media on ‘allegedly killed Al Qaeda Leaders’ and the glowing success of our drone attacks? And, once in a while, in small print, back-page, after-the-fact, corrections saying ‘ooooppps, now they say it couldn’t be confirmed whether these top Al Qaeda targets were actually killed’? You know exactly what I’m talking about. So, where are the balancing reports that are alleged, and in some cases supported and confirmed, from the other side?
For instance, there are reports that allege that between January 2006 and April 2009, U.S. drone attacks have killed 687 civilians and 14 al-Qaeda operatives, amounting to a ratio of 50 civilians killed per one al-Qaeda target killed. In other words, our drone attacks civilian death ratio has been around 95%. Or that of 60 drone strikes only 10 of them hit actual al-Qaeda targets, because of either faulty intelligence or reasons deemed top classified.
Here are some excerpts from a piece analyzing these alleged reports from the other side, the side our media fails to mention in almost every report:
This report utilizes well-established principles of both treaty and customary international law as a measuring stick for attempting to determine the legal and moral legitimacy of the covert U.S. policy of using drones to attack targets in Pakistan. This analysis is unique in that it uses both broad assessments as well as pertinent individual case studies with the purpose of chronicling the details of several drone attacks over a period of 45 months in the interest of legal evaluation. Drawing from a vast collection of reliable press reports, independent human rights testimonies, and the most prominent, mainstream studies, this report is quite possibly the most comprehensive analysis on the topic to date and likely the first of its kind to appear in the wake of the US-Pakistan drone controversy.
The most cited and controversial report to date on the casualty results of U.S. drone strikes is the April 2009 report published by Pakistan's leading English daily, The News. The report was authored by Amir Mir who is known by leading American strategic analysts as "a well-regarded Pakistani terrorism expert." The report, relying on internal Pakistani government sources, alleges that from January 14, 2006 to April 8, 2009, U.S. drone bombings killed 687 civilians and 14 al-Qaeda operatives, amounting to a ratio of nearly 50 civilians killed for every al-Qaeda operative killed, or a 94% civilian death rate. Out of 60 total strikes, only 10 hit any al-Qaeda targets. The sources attributed the failed drone attacks to "faulty intelligence information" which resulted in the "killing [of] hundreds of innocent civilians, including women and children." It goes on to detail the numbers of deaths, the statuses of the victims, and the dates of specific attacks, all within annual and monthly time frames.
This report has since been cited and endorsed by several relevant and mainstream commentators, despite the fact that it has been largely ignored, or at best, marginalized and down-played, by the mainstream media in the United States. Most notably, in a meeting with Congress this past May, former senior counterinsurgency advisor to the U.S. Army, David Kilcullen, told the U.S. government to "call off the drones" noting that "since 2006, we've killed 14 senior Al Qaeda leaders using drone strikes; in the same time period, we've killed 700 Pakistani civilians in the same area."
I encourage you to take the time and read this important and interesting analysis, and especially the well-documented sources and links cited at the end of it.
Obama: Armed & Dangerous with States Secrets Privilege
You may be sick and tired of me citing and writing about the new administration’s nonstop assault on our civil liberties since taking office last January, and you would think I would be even sicker and more tired of writing and reporting on these assaults; you would be right. However, we can’t just ignore, look the other way, and avoid this extremely important area of our lives: Our Liberties. So I’ll keep writing about it, and I ask you to please keep reading and talking about it…at least until we actually ‘do’ something about it.
Okay, let’s see what this fraud of a president and his administration have been doing lately in depriving our nation of its civil rights and liberties:
San Francisco Gates reports on another Obama attempt to play the State Secrets Privilege and other secrecy cards to prevent another court hearing on torture:
A lawsuit accusing a Bay Area flight-planning company of aiding an alleged CIA program of kidnapping and torturing terror suspects threatens national security and is too sensitive to discuss fully in a public courtroom, an Obama administration attorney argued Tuesday.
"The case cannot proceed without getting into state secrets," Justice Department lawyer Douglas Letter told an 11-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
Several judges noted that most of the essential facts of the case have been widely aired - the existence of the "extraordinary rendition" program under President George W. Bush, the five plaintiffs' accounts of their abduction and torture, and the alleged participation by Jeppesen Dataplan of San Jose - and asked why the case is too sensitive for the courts to hear.
Letter said he could reply only in a closed session. For the record, he said, "the U.S. government will not confirm or deny any relationship with Jeppesen."
Here is even a more Kafkaesque and simply outrageous case where the fraud man and his administration are trying to compete with the previous administration on the degree and the boldness of the assault on civil liberties, and in fact succeeding! The following are the excerpts from an article from the Kentucky Enquirer:
What do sex, age, race and disability discrimination have in common? They are considered state secrets when air marshals claim they are discriminated against by their federal bosses and subjected to retaliation when they report the alleged abuse.
Federal prosecutors have been largely successful in arguing national security in sealing - and closing the courtroom for hearings and trials - in a half dozen civil rights lawsuits filed by Erlanger-based air marshals in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. The latest was filed Nov. 24 at the federal courthouse in Covington.
SSI has figured in a series of lawsuits across the nation, said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists. He said some judges have ruled that SSI was cited to illegally to keep information secret.
Aftergood said it's the judges' responsibility to review the materials, and consider arguments on both sides, before sealing court documents on the basis they contain information that could threaten national security.” To say the records were improperly sealed is a criticism of the court as much as it is of the government," Aftergood said. "In a way, the government can't be faulted for pursuing its own interests."
So, what do you think? How does Obama measure up against Bush on secrecy and abuse and misuse of States Secrets Privilege? Is he bolder and even more vicious, as if we thought that could be possible?! You decide. You know my answer.
I’m running out of time, but here is another noteworthy links with a few excerpts:
China, Kazakhstan unveil landmark gas pipeline
AP News reports:
The leaders of Kazakhstan and China jointly unveiled Saturday the Kazakh section of a natural gas pipeline that will tap into Central Asia's vast energy riches and loosen Russia's influence over the region. The pipeline, due to come online in days, is part of China's efforts to secure energy supplies for its booming economy.
The 1,300-kilometer Kazakhstan-China pipeline is the Central Asian nation's first export route that completely bypasses Russia.
Gas deliveries to China through the pipeline are expected to hit around 13 billion cubic meters in 2010, with supplies fulfilling pipeline capacity by 2013, after the route has been definitively completed. Building the Kazakh section cost $6.7 billion and took more than 4,000 workers to complete in under two years, KazMunaiGaz said.
The entire 7,000-kilometer (4,300-mile) Turkmenistan-China pipeline cuts through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan into China's far western Xinjiang region. Commencement of gas deliveries from Turkmenistan to China comes as the former Soviet nation remains mired in a dispute with Russia.
Turkmenistan has until recently sold most of its gas to Russia. However, supplies have been suspended since a pipeline blast in April that Turkmenistan blames on Gazprom.
Read the brief article here.