Thursday, February 05, 2009

Silent State, Secret State, State of Terror

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last eight plus years most of us are aware of the illegal wire tapping of U.S. citizens, and the ability for the federal government to look at your library records in case you are a terrorist intent on blowing up whatever and have been looking up how to make a bomb. You would also be aware that the mostly manufactured threat of terrorists is one of the biggest hoaxes ever which has been used to justify domestic spying, to continue the War on Terror, even though it is taking a huge toll on human life and breaking the bank which is already broken, and to provide huge profits for the war industry. Oil is certainly a consideration as well. All of these grease the rails for politicians to gain those all-important campaign contributions needed to win elections. Think of it as the proverbial perpetual motion machine. It is a system that feeds on itself like the Worm Ouroboros of mythology. You should realize as well that the U.S. has been doing this for many, many years long before Bush came into office. Indeed Bush was just more unabashed about it than previous presidents, a matter of style if you will.

Another aspect of this state of terror is the extraordinary rendition carried out by the federal government where people are kidnapped and sent to secret prisons to be tortured and perhaps murdered. This is done in the name of national security but surely it is madness, as loony as the whole war on terror is itself which by any sane standard is idiotic and pointless. In a previous post I linked to an essay by Allan Nairn who described the process of secret torture prisons utilized by the U.S. government, grim places where the victims of extraordinary rendition are sent. Below is an excerpt to refresh your memory.


If you're lying on the slab still breathing, with your torturer hanging over you, you don't much care if he is an American or a mere United States - sponsored trainee.

When President Obama declared flatly this week that "the United States will not torture" many people wrongly believed that he'd shut the practice down, when in fact he'd merely repositioned it.

Obama's Executive Order bans some -- not all -- US officials from torturing but it does not ban any of them, himself included, from sponsoring torture overseas.

Indeed, his policy change affects only a slight percentage of US-culpable tortures and could be completely consistent with an increase in US-backed torture worldwide.

The catch lies in the fact that since Vietnam, when US forces often tortured directly, the US has mainly seen its torture done for it by proxy -- paying, arming, training and guiding foreigners doing it, but usually being careful to keep Americans at least one discreet step removed.

That is, the US tended to do it that way until Bush and Cheney changed protocol, and had many Americans laying on hands, and sometimes taking digital photos.

The result was a public relations fiasco that enraged the US establishment since by exposing US techniques to the world it diminished US power.

But despite the outrage, the fact of the matter was that the Bush/Cheney tortures being done by Americans were a negligible percentage of all of the tortures being done by US clients.

For every torment inflicted directly by Americans in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and the secret prisons, there were many times more being meted out by US-sponsored foreign forces.

Those forces were and are operating with US military, intelligence, financial or other backing in Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Jordan, Indonesia, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Colombia, Nigeria, and the Philippines, to name some places, not to mention the tortures sans-American-hands by the US-backed Iraqis and Afghans.

What the Obama dictum ostensibly knocks off is that small percentage of torture now done by Americans while retaining the overwhelming bulk of the system's torture, which is done by foreigners under US patronage.

Obama could stop backing foreign forces that torture, but he has chosen not to do so.

I suggest you read the whole essay but the above gives you a good idea of what is happening with the issue of torture and how Obama is only giving it a cosmetic makeover.

One of the hopes of the Obama faithful is that Obama will make what our government does less secret and more transparent, something Obama himself has laid claim to doing.


President Barack Obama boldly proclaimed recently that “Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

This sounds mighty fine but is it real? Like so many other aspects of Obama it is mostly cosmetic, sugar coated garbage meant for public consumption. The Guardian reports on the case of Binyam Mohamed, a UK resident held in Guantánamo by the U.S. government.


The government was accused last night of hiding behind claims of a threat to national security to suppress evidence of torture by the CIA on a prisoner still held in Guantánamo Bay.

An unprecedented high court ruling yesterday blamed the US, with British connivance, for keeping the "powerful evidence" secret, sparking criticism from lawyers, campaigners and MPs, who claimed the government had capitulated to American bullying.

Two senior judges said they were powerless to reveal the information about the torture of Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian-born British resident, because David Miliband, the foreign secretary, had warned the court the US was threatening to stop sharing intelligence about terrorism with the UK.

In a scathing judgment, Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones said the evidence, and what MI5 knew about it, must remain secret because according to Miliband, the American threats meant "the public of the United Kingdom would be put at risk".

The judges made clear they were unhappy with their decision, but said they had no alternative as a result of Miliband's claim. Their ruling revealed that Miliband stuck to his position about the threat to the UK even after Barack Obama signed orders two weeks ago banning torture and announcing the closure of the Guantánamo Bay prison camp.

Last night Miliband seemingly backtracked on his office's submission, saying there had been no threat by the US to break off intelligence co-operation. "It's American information and it is for the Americans to decide whether to publish their information," Miliband told Channel 4 television.

Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve, the legal charity and human rights group which acted for Mohamed, said last night: "The US is under a legal duty to investigate the crime of torture, not to suppress evidence that it happened ... For the foreign secretary to give in to these illegal demands by the Bush administration is capitulation to blackmail, pure and simple."

Yesterday's ruling was the latest in unprecedented court hearings into the abduction of Mohamed, who was seized and held incommunicado in Pakistan in 2002 before being secretly renditioned to Morocco, where he says he was tortured. He was subsequently flown to Afghanistan before being sent to Guantánamo Bay. He has been on hunger strike and the US and UK are discussing his possible return to the UK.

The ruling, studded with thinly disguised attacks on the attitude of the foreign secretary and the American authorities, came after the judges last year invited the Guardian and other media groups to overturn Miliband's refusal to disclose information in the documents given to him by the US. In a telling passage, the judges said: "Given [the documents'] source and detail, they would ... amount to powerful evidence". None of the contents at issue could possibly be described as sensitive US intelligence, they said.

In further stinging comments they said: "Moreover, in the light of the long history of the common law and democracy which we share with the United States, it was, in our view, very difficult to conceive that a democratically elected and accountable government could possibly have any rational objection to placing into the public domain such a summary of what its own officials reported as to how a detainee was treated by them and which made no disclosure of sensitive intelligence matters.

"Indeed we did not consider that a democracy governed by the rule of law would expect a court in another democracy to suppress a summary of the evidence contained in reports by its own officials ... relevant to allegations of torture and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, politically embarrassing though it might be." The judges said yesterday: "It is plainly right that the details of the admissions in relation to the treatment of [Mohamed] as reported by officials of the United States government should be brought into the public domain."

They urged the Obama administration to reconsider the US position and also said that parliament's intelligence and security select committee must investigate the case in line with extended powers the committee had been granted by Gordon Brown. But the judges noted that the committee meets in private and the prime minister can censor its reports.

This is an extremely clear example of how national security and the bogus war on terror is being used by the U.S. to do whatever it wishes including destroying habeas corpus, to kidnap and torture innocent people, to hide behind a cloak of secrecy all in the name of national security when nothing could be further from the truth. And if all this seems to be a tale told by idiots that is because this whole farce is idiotic. As for the naïve comment about democracies and the rule of law I would once again point out that the rule of law is only for the general public not the ruling classes. It is just about as silly as the idea that democracies do not wage unjust wars or would not war with each other despite the very recent evidence of one democracy, Israel, waging war against another democracy, Palestine, which has been one of the cornerstones behind the ideology of “nation building” pure piracy by any other name.

But getting back to Obama and his soaring rhetoric concerning more transparency the Guardian article continues with the following.

In earlier rulings judges described the American attitude in the case as "deeply disturbing". Miliband is expected to stand by what he told the high court, in a Commons written statement today. He is also expected to repeat the government's condemnation of torture.

A spokesman for the US state department said: "The US thanks the UK government for its continued commitment to protect sensitive national security information and preserve the long standing intelligence-sharing relationship that enables both countries to protect their citizens. The US investigates allegations and claims of torture ... such as those raised by Binyam Mohamed."

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said last night: "Despite best efforts to shine a light on the grubbiest aspects of the 'war on terror', the Foreign Office has claimed that the Obama administration maintained a previous US threat to reconsider intelligence sharing unless our judges kept this shameful skeleton in the closet. We find this Foreign Office allegation ... surprising." David Davis, the former shadow home secretary, said it implied that torture had taken place and British agencies may have been complicit.

If this is Obama’s transparency it is a curiously opaque transparency.

This is all yet further proof that there is nothing sacred about democracies for it has been two democracies, the U.S. and Israel, that have been waging their own brand of terror against essentially weak and helpless nations and peoples for a very long time now with the hypocritical audacity to accuse its victims of being “terrorists” because they for some reason object to the state terror that has been wreaked against them in the most brutal means possible in the form of invasion, assassinations, and the murder of innocent civilians around the world, and that is no secret.


At February 05, 2009 12:12 PM, Blogger Mimi said...

I said it when he was president-elect, I said it when he was inaugerated, and I'll keep saying it: Obama and his cohorts are MORE dangereous than Bush and gang, who were so easy to despise. Obama seems so open and nice and working class and he has those beautiful little girls and those gleaming teeth and he's a DEMOCRAT, that's all you need, isn't it? He easily fools the liberals because they want to be fooled. They were so parched for "representation" and so thrilled to show how committed they are to equality by voting for a black--well, part black, and it would have been better...never mind.
So many of them still think he's anti-war. What?! The instant he chose Biden, if not long before, they should have known.

At February 05, 2009 3:16 PM, Blogger Jonathan Versen said...

Glenn Greenwald discussed this earlier this week, and some of what he offered, including the Al Gore quote, is valuable, although he also seems to be questioning whether opposing rendition in all instances is reasonable. (Actually it's hard to discern his point of view, ultimately.)

At February 05, 2009 6:02 PM, Blogger rob payne said...


Absolutely, I agree completely. And there really is no excuse for the Obamamaniacs to continue with their delusions. Obama may tweak thing a little here and there but to no great effect. For people to continue to support what Obama is and does is a self-imposed stupidity that goes beyond the pale. It’s going to be an interesting four years and it will be a marvel to see the mental contortions the faithful will go through to remain the faithful.


Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out. I’m interested in what he has to say and what the wooden one said.

At February 06, 2009 2:52 AM, Blogger rob payne said...


I read Greenwalds post on rendition and I tend to disagree with his views on that point and several other points. His suggestion that there is a significant difference between the two parties in my view overlooks a lot of evidence. I admit there are minor differences but they are differences that in no way will upset the status quo of the ruling classes. Obama may allow stem cell research to be pursued and perhaps several other things of that nature. Stem cell research may or may not be important but we won’t know until it is allowed to be researched. It may well have a beneficial effect for many people and I hope it will. But on all the main issues or what I consider to be important Obama is no different in any respect from Bush. Obama has inherited all the powers that Bush grabbed after 9/11 and I see no evidence at all that he will give any of these up. I just read that Obama will be placing an additional 17,000 troops in Afghanistan widening a war that in all likelihood will be far worse and more protracted than the invasion of Iraq. The preponderance of evidence simply does not jibe with Greenwald’s views that there is a significant difference between the two parties.

Greenwald does seem to suggest that rendition is justifiable in certain cases which I find to be an abhorrent view. His example of a mass murderer fleeing the States to a nation that will not comply with extradition is not very convincing to me. It suggests that the U.S. has the right to lord it over other nations if we don’t happen to agree with their policies. I find that arrogant and smacks of Bush policy. Since rendition goes against the due process of laws written to protect people from such things I can see no possible justification for it even if the person were bin Laden. But that is just my opinion for what it is worth.

As for Geenwald’s position that rendition was carried out to a greater extent under Bush that may well be true but on the other hand Bush was far more open about it than presidents in the past have been and the few examples known may just be the tip of an iceberg as I suspect that they probably are. Greenwald also seems to think that hanging people who were convicted of crimes prior to their capture is somehow significantly different than what Bush did and I find that highly questionable as well. Also I am wondering just how you can convict someone of a crime when they are absent which suggests a kangaroo court, I mean there wouldn’t even be a defense attorney there to represent the accused so I find that argument to be very weak indeed. I’m also against capital punishment.

Basically I find Greenwald to be delusional and irritating but that is just an opinion on my part but these days I find myself to be irritated by people who present themselves as being reasonable when in fact they are just being intractable and obstinate apologists for crimes of the state.

On Gore’s statement I think that is a clear indicator of the arrogance of the neo-liberals and their god awful views on “humanitarian interventions.” But then Gore always was a prick.


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