Posts Tagged ‘Osama bin Laden’

The passing scene: Deplorables, debt and Osama

September 21, 2016

Donald Trump Doesn’t Understand White People by Jason Johnson for The Root.

Progressives Are Targets of Hillary’s ‘Basket of Deplorables’ Speech by John V. Wash for Counterpunch.

Donald Trump tries to reassure supporters they’re not really racist.   Hillary Clinton tries to reassure supporters it’s okay to be elitist.

The Coming European Debt Wars by Michael Hudson for Defend Democracy Press.

The European Union is in crisis because it insists on repayment of debts that are too great to ever be repaid.

An Anniversary of Shame by Michael Hirsch for POLITICO.

Some in the CIA say the “war on terror” could have been won in six months if the U.S. government had not given “regime change” priority over capturing or killing Osama bin Laden.

How Seymour Hersh uncovers the inside story

May 18, 2016

Seymour Hersh’s writings always remind me of how little I know about what is really going on.

I am better informed as a result of reading his work and watching this video, and you may be, as well.


Fourteen years after 9/11

September 11, 2015

During the months following the 9/11 attacks, I was surprised and shocked by how quickly the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were wiped off the blackboard, and how easily practices such as torture and assassination, which I had thought of as the defining characteristics of totalitarian countries, became accepted as normal.

I blamed George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and I hoped that as a result of the 2004 and then the 2008 election that country would return to what I regarded as normal.  It took me a long time to realize that the country I was living in was different from what I thought it was.

Terrorists in Sept. 11, 2001, killed more than 3,000 Americans, but what we did to ourselves and the world was worse.

Tom Englehardt, editor of TomDispatch, expressed very well what has happened:

shutterstock_308882264-600x726Fourteen years later and do you even believe it? Did we actually live it? Are we still living it? And how improbable is that?

Fourteen years of wars, interventions, assassinations, torture, kidnappings, black sites, the growth of the American national security state to monumental proportions, and the spread of Islamic extremism across much of the Greater Middle East and Africa.

Fourteen years of astronomical expense, bombing campaigns galore, and a military-first foreign policy of repeated defeats, disappointments, and disasters.

Fourteen years of a culture of fear in America, of endless alarms and warnings, as well as dire predictions of terrorist attacks.

Fourteen years of the burial of American democracy (or rather its recreation as a billionaire’s playground and a source of spectacle and entertainment but not governance).

Fourteen years of the spread of secrecy, the classification of every document in sight, the fierce prosecution of whistleblowers, and a faith-based urge to keep Americans “secure” by leaving them in the dark about what their government is doing.


Interview of Seymour Hersh on bin Laden killing

May 14, 2015

As I think about it, I can understand why the governments of the United States, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia preferred to permanently silence Osama bin Laden than to question him or put him on trial.  I don’t like this, but I can understand it.

The most damning thing about Seymour Hersh’s article on the killing of Osama bin Laden was how President Obama panicked when a helicopter crashed, and broke the U.S. agreement with Pakistan on the agreed-upon cover story on the bin Laden killing.

I strongly disagree with Barack Obama’s policies and priorities, which I think are very different from what his supporters think they are, but I always thought of him as exceptionally cool and self-controlled.  Apparently not.   Of course revealing sensitive security information for political purposes isn’t new.

The video embedded above is most of an interview of Seymour Hersh by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!  Below is a link to the full interview, with a transcript.

Seymour Hersh Details Explosive Story on Bin Laden Killing & Responds to White House, Media Backlash | Democracy Now  [Hat tip to Mike Connelly]

Below is a link to an interview with Jeffrey Sterling, who either is a brave whistleblower who is going to prison because he revealed corruption and incompetence in the Central Intelligence Agency to investigative reporter James Risen, or a victim of injustice who was convicted on circumstantial evidence.

Exclusive: CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling Speaks Out upon Sentencing to 3.5 Years in Prison | Democracy Now

Why liberals no longer believe Seymour Hersh

May 13, 2015

Bush liberals conservatives militarism

When George W. Bush was President, most liberals believed the exposes of investigative reporter Seymour Hersh.  Now that Barack Obama is President, they are more skeptical.

As Espeth Reeve pointed out in The New Republic, liberals and Hersh are no longer on the same page.

militarism Obama liberals conservativesLINKS

The Killing of Osama bin Laden by Seymour M. Hersh in the London Review of Books.

The Loneliness of Sy Hersh by Elspeth Reeve for The New Republic.

What we weren’t told about bin Laden’s killing

May 11, 2015

Almost everything we’ve been told about the killing of Osama bin Laden four years ago is a lie, according to Seymour M. Hersh.  He reported in the current issue of London Review of Books that:

  • The raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound four years ago was done with the full knowledge of the Pakistani government.  Helicopters carrying the Navy SEAL team were never in danger of being intercepted as they entered Pakistan.
  • Osama bin Laden was no longer in operational campaign of Al Qaeda and the raid did not yield a trove of valuable intelligence.
  • His location was disclosed by means of a tip from someone in Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), who wanted the $25 million reward offered by the CIA.   In particular, interrogation and torture played no role.
  • President Obama broke promises to the government of Pakistan to keep the raid a secret.
  • Almost everything that has been reported about the details of the raid is untrue.   It was more like a gangland-style execution than anything else.
  • The SEAL team was ordered to kill Osama, not to bring him back, which would have been feasible.  He knew too much that the governments of the United States, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia could not have afforded to make known.

al_qaidas_no_2_issues_eulogy_for_bin_laden-362x307How much credence does this deserve?  Hersh’s article is based entirely on information from insiders who are not quoted by name.  How can we be sure they’re telling the truth if we don’t know who they are?

It depends on how much you trust Hersh.  You have to believe that he is an honest person, which I do, and that he is an experienced and capable reporter, which he is.  I trust him more than I do the government.  You also have to believe that the people he quoted are honest people who know what they are talking about.

A great deal of leaked information is from people who have an ulterior purpose, but I can’t see how anybody who talked to Hersh has anything to gain except the desire to make the truth known or to disassociate themselves from lies.

The lesson of this is not to assume that anything the government announces is necessarily true, unless it can be independently confirmed.  This is not a new lesson, but it is an easy one—for me, at least—to forget.


The Killing of Osama bin Laden by Seymour M. Hersh for the London Review of Books.


A look back at a former U.S. ally

October 16, 2014
Osama bin Laden in 1993.  Click to enlarge.

Osama bin Laden in 1993.  Double click to enlarge.

Some time after this interview, the Clinton administration and other governments pressured Sudan to expel Osama bin Laden as a terrorist.

Osama then relocated to Afghanistan, and the rest is history.

Robert Fisk is still reporting from the Middle East.  Click on The Independent for recent reporting and commentary.


What I learned from being wrong

September 17, 2014


A blogger named Lance Mannion issued this challenge to all those critics who think they’re smarter than President Obama.

Arguments [of many Internet doves] seem to me to be based on the assumption that we should get ourselves out of the Middle East no matter what because there’s basically nothing we can do to make things better and just by being in there we make them worse by stirring up suspicions and hatreds.  Those are the smart ones.  But I would think that since I’m inclined to agree.

I’m inclined to agree.  That doesn’t mean I necessarily agree.

There are others, though, who’ve based their case on the bumper sticker-profound idea that War is Never the Answer and plenty of others whose arguments are based on a vague and circular logic: “This reminds me of what George Bush did in some way I can’t put my finger on but it must be wrong because of that or else I wouldn’t be reminded of George Bush.”

17-40f10I’m not bothering with any arguments that are based on the assumption that whatever we do is wrong because we’re the ones doing it.

So I’m asking for help.

Should we do nothing?  Why or why not?  What should we do and how would that work?  And what I want to know, more than that you were right about Iraq in 2002, is if you think Bill Clinton failed morally and geo-politically when he did nothing about Rwanda.

Also what are your thoughts on Kuwait, the Kurds, Kosovo, Tora Bora, killing bin Laden, and Libya?

via Smarter than the President?  Not me.  I’m too smart not to know how dumb I am.

 I’ve been wrong more often than I’ve been right on all the issues Mannion mentions.  My claim is that, while it has taken longer than it should have done, I have learned something from my mistakes.


Mideast struggles: Links & comments 9/29/13

September 29, 2013

Is Iran Out of the US War Queue? Twilight of the Hawks by Juan Cole for Informed Comment.   Hat tip to Jack Clontz

General Wesley Clark said that, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, he was told by a friend in the Pentagon that the Department of Defense had a list of seven countries it intended to invade—Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.  Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and the other architects of that plan are no longer in government, but it does seem as if that, at any given time, the United States government is debating war with one or another of the countries on that list.

Juan Cole is optimistic about peace negotiations with Iran.   I hope he’s right.   There is no basic conflict of interest between our two countries.  We Americans of course would like to have cheap oil, but no Iranian government is going to give its oil away.  Even the Shah of Iran, who was installed by the CIA, eventually nationalized Iranian oil and supported OPEC.

How Bashar al-Assad Destroyed My Country by Omar Ghabra for The Nation.

A Syrian-American recalls how the Assad government in 2011 murdered and tortured non-violent protesters who demanded a democratic government and respect for human rights.   His article illustrates President John F. Kennedy’s saying, that those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.

Where did Syria get its Chemical Weapons in the First Place? by Jannis Bruhl of ProPublica for Informed Comment.  Another hat tip to Jack Clontz

Evidently Russia supplied the poison gas weapons, but essential chemical supplies also came from Germany and other European countries.

Putin to the Rescue by David Bromwich for the London Review of Books.

Barack Obama thoughtlessly says things that come back to haunt him.   That’s one reason the wily Vladimir Putin outsmarted him in the Syrian crisis.   You would think that someone who is as determined as President Obama to prevent leaks of embarrassing information would be more self-disciplined about his own words.

Seymour Hersh on death of Osama bin Laden: ‘It is one big lie; not one word of it is true’ by Lisa O’Carroll for The Guardian.  Hat tip to Daniel Brandt.

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh is my age (76) and still going strong.  People like him make me feel as if I’ve wasted my life.

Uzbekistan’s Karimova Tillyaeva reveals rift in ruling family by BBC News.   Hat tip to Oidin.

The jet-setting daughters of Uzbekistan’s dictator Islam Karimov, who both play roles in the government, haven’t spoken to each other for 12 years.   As celebrity gossip, this is amusing, but I don’t think that the poverty-stricken, repressed people of Uzbekistan find it so amusing.

The passing scene: Links & comment 8/9/13

August 9, 2013

Here are some links to articles I think are worth noting, but not worth a separate post in themselves.  For now I will put more links in roundup posts and fewer in my Recommended reading links menu, and see how that works.

A warning to profs from a high school teacher by Kenneth Bernstein in the Washington Post.  Hat tip to Unqualified Offerings.

My friends in academia complain of students who lack the ability to express themselves in a rational and coherent manner.  Retired teacher Kenneth Bernstein said that President Bush’s No Child Left Behind and President Obama’s Race to the Top programs have produced a generation of students who are good at passing multiple choice tests, and little else.

Vlad the Hammer vs. Obama the Wimp by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times.

Pepe Escobar wrote that Vladimir Putin has a realistic strategy for advancing Russia’s economic interests and geo-political power and the will to carry it out, while Barack Obama simply reacts to events.  Obama’s idle threats in the Snowden affair illustrate his lack of realism and self-control, Escobar said.

New Bank Investigations: Real Action or More of the Same? by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

Matt Taibbi wrote that he will be convinced that the Obama administration’s investigations of Chase and the Bank of America are for real when some high-placed Wall Street lawbreaker actually goes to prison, or some Wall Street financial institution is broken up so that it is no longer too big to fail.

Why Spitzer’s Return Terrifies Big Finance by Thomas Ferguson on naked capitalism.

I’d guess that Eliot Spitzer, now running for New York City Comptroller after having resigned a few years ago as Governor,  is not the only New York politician who has spent money on prostitutes.  I’d also guess that he is one of the few who is willing to prosecute wealthy Wall Street financiers for fraud.

‘Eminent Domain for the People’ Leaves Wall Street Furious by Sarah Larare for Common Dreams.  Hat tip to Mike Connelly.

The city of Richmond, California, wants to buy mortgages of underwater homeowners at a discount (with the owners’ permission), and has threatened to seize properties by eminent domain if mortgage-holders refuse.  The city then would let homeowners refinance at their homes’ current values.  I think it is a good plan.  I thinks there needs to be debt relief.

Osama bin Laden’s insights and the Egyptian coup by Ian Welsh.

Osama bin Laden believed that corrupt Middle East governments could not be overthrown so long as the United States propped them up, and the only way Middle Eastern peoples could become truly independent is to get the U.S. bogged down in stalemate wars, like Russia in Afghanistan.  Bin Laden was a criminal terrorist, but his analysis makes sense to many people in the region.

‘Urgent’ Fukushima Crisis Demands More Public Money, says Japan by Jon Queally for Common Dreams.  Hat tip to Mike Connelly.

Japanese officials said that up to 300 tons of highly radioactive water are pouring into the Pacific Ocean each day.

DEA and NSA Team Up to Share Intelligence, Leading to Secret Use of Surveillance in Ordinary Investigations by Hanni Fakhouri of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  Hat tip to Dennis Darland.

President Obama said on the Jay Leno show that the NSA was used only for national security.  Evidently he was misinformed.

The 9-11 Decade: Crusaders and Jihadists

September 15, 2011

This is the last of three interesting documentaries by the Al Jazeera network on the consequences of the 9-11 attacks.

It shows that the goal of Al Qaeda was to instigate a war between the United States and the whole civilization of Islam.  Al Qaeda discredited itself through indiscriminate killing of innocent people, but it remains to be seen whether it has failed to achieve its goal.


Iraq, Afghanistan: Was it worth it?

September 10, 2011

This chart was taken from The American Prospect. Double click to view.

The United States armed forces did the world a favor by ridding it of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.  The question is: At what price in American lives, treasure and liberties, and in the lives of people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries?

Saddam Hussein was a cruel tyrant.  He combined the totalitarian control of a Stalin with the cruelty of a Caligula or Nero.  One of the things he did was to promulgate a law to punish those who spoke disrespectfully of him and his sons by cutting out their tongues.  Amnesty International in an annual report on Iraq reported on non-verbal interviews with people whose tongues had been cut out.

Click on Tales of the Tyrant for a 2002 sketch of Saddam Hussein in power by Mark Bowden in The Atlantic.

Osama bin Laden was a ruthless terrorist. One of the things he did was order Al Qaeda to murder the respected Afghan leader Ahmad Shah Massoud a few days before the 9/11 attacks.  Massound was a leader of Afghan resistance to the Soviets, an opponent of the Taliban and a devout Sunni Muslim devoted to the teachings of the Sufi mystic Al-Ghazzali.  Bin Laden foresaw that the United States would invade Afghanistan, and he did not wish there to be any credible alternative to the Taliban.

Click on The crimes of Al Qaeda terrorism for my earlier post on Al Qaeda’s record.

Researchers at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University estimate that 225,000 people have died as a result of those wars, including 6,051 American troops and at least 137,000 Iraqi and Afghan civilians.  Click on Costs of War for the study, the basis of the chart above.


The legacy of Osama bin Laden

May 27, 2011

This two-part video series by Al Jazeera told me things I hadn’t known.  Osama bin Laden was the one behind the destruction of the Buddhist statues in Afghanistan.  The notion that he suffered kidney failure or was on dialysis was an urban legend.  Bin Laden was taken advantage of by the government of Sudan, but had a tight relationship with the Taliban’s Mullah Omar, whom he helped defeat his internal enemies.  More than any detail, it opens up a world to which I wouldn’t otherwise see.

It is a mistake to think of Osama bin Laden as yesterday’s news.  He is dead, but his example lives on and, unfortunately, will continue to inspire for some time to come.

Should Osama bin Laden have been put on trial?

May 5, 2011

One of the standard scenes in the black-and-white Western movies I saw as a boy was where the sheriff faced down a lynch mob trying to take a prisoner he had apprehended.  Some of the members of the mob may have been the sheriff’s friends, and the prisoner may have been an obviously guilty murderer, but no matter.  The principle was that the mob did not have the right to take the law into their own hands.  Eventually the mob would agree to “give him a trial and hang him fair and square.”

I remember World War Two and talk of putting Adolf Hitler on trial.  Hitler escaped a public trial by committing suicide, as did Joseph Goebbels and, on the eve of his trial, Herman Goering, but the lesser Nazis were tried for their crimes.  Later the Israelis put Adolf Eichmann on trial in Jerusalem.

Robert A. Taft and others deplored the Nuremberg war crimes trials as “victor’s justice,” but the accused were given lawyers and all the other rights of criminal defendants and a few of them were acquitted.

A trial is more than a means for determining guilt and meting out punishment.  It is a forum in which the public is shown the evidence of just what the criminal has done.  Summary executions without trial turn criminals into martyrs. It is interesting that Herman Goering preferred to commit suicide rather go on trial for his crimes.  Maybe Osama bin Laden would have preferred to die as he did rather than be publicly tried.

But the ideal of the rule of law is fading in 21st century America. Westerns have been replaced by spy movies, in which the hero is judge, jury, executioner and sometimes torturer.   Thriller writers such as Vince Flynn,  and TV series such as “24” treat constitutional rights and due process of law as a shield for cowards.

Listen to Texas Rep. John Culbertson in the video above.  He is genuinely outraged at the idea of putting Osama bin Laden as the Nazi and Japanese war criminals were tried.  Listen to Attorney General Eric Holder.  He is defensive and apologetic, and never defends the rule of law in a straightforward manner.  Fascists used to sneer at the “decadent democracy” of the United States and Great Britain.  It is almost as if we admit they were right.


The crimes of al Qaeda terrorism

May 4, 2011

We Americans remember Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda mostly for planning the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and the earlier attacks on the USS Cole off Yemen and U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.  But al Qaeda’s victims also include commuters in London and Madrid, dance hall patrons in Bali, hundreds of peaceful Shiite worshipers in Iraq and many others.

Madrid terror bombing

Click on the links below for a review of Al-Qaeda’s crimes.

Fact Sheet: Al Qaeda and Taliban Atrocities by the U.S. Department of State

al-Zarqawi’s toll of atrocities by Adam Fresco of the London Times

Timeline of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda’s atrocities by the London Telegraph.

Bin Laden’s global campaign leaves world bloodied by Luke Baker of Reuters

It is too bad Osama bin Laden can’t be put on trial.  This would have been a good opportunity to show the world the evidence of al Qaeda’s crimes.

And, no, I don’t think the misdeeds of the United States, Israel or other countries excuse or mitigate the crimes of al Qaeda.


Al-Qaeda and the death of Osama bin Laden

May 3, 2011

Robert Fisk, foreign correspondent for The Independent of London, has covered the Middle East from his home in Bierut for more than 30 years.  He interviewed Osama bin Laden three times.  Click on Robert Fisk for his web log.


Osama bin Laden: mission accomplished?

May 2, 2011

Osama bin Laden is dead.  The deaths of more than 3,000 people in the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks have been avenged.  As an American, I rejoice in this.

President Obama

Click on Obama announces bin Laden dead for the text of President Obama’s announcement

Click on Obama and the End of Al-Qaeda for perspective from Middle East expert Juan Cole.

Click on Egypt’s al-Zawahri likely next leader of al-Qaida for an Associated Press report on the future of Al Qaeda.  Ayman al-Zawahiri may be a more dangerous and capable enemy than Osama bin Laden himself.

Click on What next after bin Laden death? for analysis by Al Jazeera English.  The conclusion is that the death of Osama bin Laden is unlikely to mean the end of either Al Qaeda or the end of the war in Afghanistan.

Osama bin Laden’s strategy was to destroy United States power by bleeding us to death in quagmire wars, as the Soviet Union was bled to death in Afghanistan.  He stated this in videos released to Al Jazeera.  Click on Bin Laden: Goal is to bankrupt U.S. for CNN’s 2004 report on one of them.

Osama bin Laden’s own mission may have been accomplished.  The actions of the U.S. government in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, under both President Bush and President Obama, created more new terrorists than Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or bin Laden’s successors could ever have done on their own.

This would be a good time to declare our “mission accomplished” and wind down all the ongoing U.S. wars both open and covert.


Islamic architecture in the Twin Towers

August 25, 2010

I never knew that the design of New York’s World Trade Center was influenced by Islamic architecture, but evidently it was.  Laurie Kerr, writing for Slate about three months after the 9/11 attacks, explained:

The World Trade Center’s architect, Minoru Yamasaki, was a favorite designer of the Bin Laden family’s patrons—the Saudi royal family—and a leading practitioner of an architectural style that merged modernism with Islamic influences. …

Interior of World Trade Center

Yamasaki described its plaza as “a mecca, a great relief from the narrow streets and sidewalks of the surrounding Wall Street area.” True to his word, Yamasaki replicated the plan of Mecca’s courtyard by creating a vast delineated square, isolated from the city’s bustle by low colonnaded structures and capped by two enormous, perfectly square towers—minarets, really. Yamasaki’s courtyard mimicked Mecca’s assemblage of holy sites—the Qa’ba (a cube) containing the sacred stone, what some believe is the burial site of Hagar and Ishmael, and the holy spring—by including several sculptural features, including a fountain, and he anchored the composition in a radial circular pattern, similar to Mecca’s.

At the base of the towers, Yamasaki used implied pointed arches—derived from the characteristically pointed arches of Islam—as a transition between the wide column spacing below and the dense structural mesh above. (Europe imported pointed arches from Islam during the Middle Ages, and so non-Muslims have come to think of them as innovations of the Gothic period.) Above soared the pure geometry of the towers, swathed in a shimmering skin, which doubled as a structural web—a giant truss. Here Yamasaki was following the Islamic tradition of wrapping a powerful geometric form in a dense filigree, as in the inlaid marble pattern work of the Taj Mahal or the ornate carvings of the courtyard and domes of the Alhambra.

The shimmering filigree is the mark of the holy. According to Oleg Grabar, the great American scholar of Islamic art and architecture, the dense filigree of complex geometries alludes to a higher spiritual reality in Islam, and the shimmering quality of Islamic patterning relates to the veil that wraps the Qa’ba at Mecca. After the attack, Grabar spoke of how these towers related to the architecture of Islam, where “the entire surface is meaningful” and “every part is both construction and ornament.” A number of designers from the Middle East agreed, describing the entire façade as a giant “mashrabiya,” the tracery that fills the windows of mosques.