JFP 1/21: Pentagon Pressing White House for More U.S. Military Action in Mali

Just Foreign Policy News, January 21, 2013
Pentagon Pressing White House for More U.S. Military Action in Mali

Go Straight to the News Summary

I) Actions and Featured Articles

** Action: No drone strikes in Mali without Congressional authorization
The Los Angeles Times reports that the Pentagon is pressing the White House for greater military action in Mali (see #2 below.). Earlier reporting in the Washington Post indicated that such action would likely include drone strikes (see #1 below.) Such action should not happen without Congressional debate and authorization. If U.S. drone strikes happen in Mali happen without Congressional authorization, it means 1) extension of the drone war to a new country and 2) violation of the War Powers Resolution or 3) a unilateral extension by the Administration of the 2001 Authorization of the Use of Military Force to Mali, despite the fact that Mali had nothing to do with the September 11 attacks. Urge your Representative and Senators to speak up.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/mali-drones

**Action: What will happen in Palestine on Friday?

The last two Fridays, nonviolent Palestinian activists against the Israeli occupation have established protest villages on Palestinian land that is threatened by Israeli land confiscation [see #3 below.] What do you suppose will happen in Palestine this Friday? A reasonable guess is that there will be a new protest village. Mark your calendar for Friday morning. On Friday morning, look for news on Twitter or the web of the new Palestinian protest village and spread the news around.

**Action: Urge Senators to Challenge Brennan on Drone Strikes

President Obama has nominated John Brennan to lead the CIA. Human Rights Watch - and the Washington Post editorial board - have called for the CIA to stop conducting drone strikes, because of the CIA's lack of transparency and accountability to international law. Urge your Senators to question Brennan on drone strike policy and the demand that the CIA get out of drone strikes.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/cia-head-drones

Algerians on Western Military Intervention: We Told You So
An article in the New York Times yesterday claimed that "Jihadists' Surge in North Africa Reveals Grim Side of Arab Spring," as its headline proclaimed. But its examples were Western military intervention in Libya and Mali; no evidence was advanced that the toppling of dictators in Tunisia and Egypt by indigenous, nonviolent democratic movements had led to increased terrorism. The article includes a nice quote describing Algeria's criticism:
"Their attitude was, 'Please don't intervene in Libya or you will create another Iraq on our border,' " said Geoff D. Porter, an Algeria expert and founder of North Africa Risk Consulting, which advises investors in the region. "And then, 'Please don't intervene in Mali or you will create a mess on our other border.' But they were dismissed as nervous Nellies, and now Algeria says to the West: 'Goddamn it, we told you so.' "
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/20/world/africa/in-chaos-in-north-africa-a-grim-side-of-arab-spring.html

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Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) In a letter to the Washington Post, Just Foreign Policy noted that Congress has not authorized U.S. military action in Mali. The Post had reported that a senior U.S. official said, "Contingency plans for the use of armed drones were already in place and are being reevaluated." Just Foreign Policy noted that U.S. use of armed drones in Mali without Congressional authorization would violate the War Powers Resolution that Congress passed after the Vietnam war, and also noted that the Washington Post editorial board in a November 1 editorial had specifically rejected claims that the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force could be extended to Mali, since Mali had nothing to do with the September 11 attacks.

2) The war in Mali has opened divisions between the White House and the Pentagon over the danger posed by a mix of Islamist militant groups, the Los Angeles Times reports. Some top Pentagon officials and military officers warn that without more aggressive U.S. action, Mali could become a haven for extremists, akin to Afghanistan before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the LAT says. But many of Obama's top aides say it is unclear whether the Mali insurgents threaten the U.S. Those aides also worry about being drawn into a messy and possibly long-running conflict against an elusive enemy in Mali, just as U.S. forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan.

An administration official said: "The question we all need to ask is, what threat do they pose to the U.S. homeland? The answer so far has been none." [This is supposed to be a standard for the U.S. use of military force, particularly without Congressional authorization - JFP.]

"I think the U.S. ambivalence about moving into Mali is very understandable," said Richard Barrett, a former British diplomat who serves as UN counter-terrorism coordinator. Noting the instances where U.S. forces have been drawn into conflict with Islamic militants, he said, "Why would they want another one, for God's sake? It's such a difficult area to operate in."

Johnnie Carson, who heads the Africa bureau at the State Department, told Congress in June that AQIM [Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb] "has not demonstrated the capability to threaten U.S. interests outside of West or North Africa, and it has not threatened to attack the U.S. homeland."

The militant groups "all appear to me to be essentially criminal networks based on kidnapping and smuggling … having little to do with Islam or with the remnants of Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan," said John Campbell, a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria now at the Council on Foreign Relations.

3) Israeli security forces removed Palestinian protest tents from land adjoining a Jewish settlement in the West Bank on Monday, the second such camp to be torn down in a week, Reuters reports. Palestinian activists had pitched tents near the village of Beit Iksa, northwest of Jerusalem, where residents face difficulty building homes due to Israeli restrictions and may be surrounded by a separation barrier Israel plans for the area. Activists from the camp, which they dubbed Bab al-Karama, "the Gateway of Dignity", vowed to continue pitching tents on areas they say are threatened by Israeli settlement expansion. [You can search the hashtag #BabalKarama on Twitter to find more about the protest village. It is a reasonable guess that there will be a new protest village on Friday - JFP.]

4) The Obama administration is nearing completion of a detailed counterterrorism manual that is designed to establish clear rules for targeted-killing operations but leaves open a major exemption for the CIA's campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan, the Washington Post reports. The CIA Pakistan exception is expected to be in effect for "less than two years but more than one," corresponding to the drawdown in Afghanistan, the base of drone strikes in Pakistan. In Yemen, officials said, strikes have been permitted only in cases in which intelligence indicates a specific threat to Americans. The "playbook" has adopted that standard. Imposing the playbook standards on the CIA campaign in Pakistan would probably lead to a sharp reduction in the number of strikes, the Post says.

Brennan's confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee is scheduled for Feb. 7.

5) Politicians and pundits have made clear that the Senate Armed Services Committee should hector Chuck Hagel in his confirmation hearing to be Secretary of Defense over his opposition to President Bush's 2007 "surge" of 30,000 troops into Iraq, writes Robert Parry for Consortium News. Most likely, Hagel will admit his "mistake" rather than challenge the deeply entrenched Washington myth that the surge was a "success," Parry writes. But the "surge" sacrificed nearly 1,000 additional U.S. military dead (and killed countless innocent Iraqis) while contributing very little to the war's outcome, Parry writes. Parry notes that the myth of the successful surge helped produce the useless "surge" in Afghanistan, which similarly killed many Americans and Afghanis for no reason.

Mali
6) Human Rights Watch said it had received credible reports of serious abuses, including killings, being committed by Malian security forces against civilians, Reuters reports. HRW said that Tuaregs and Arabs, ethnic groups most associated with rebels who have controlled Mali's north, were being especially targeted.

7) Supporters of France's military intervention in Mali want us to applaud it as a great act of charity, writes David Cronin in New Europe. But in fact France is continuing a long pattern of military intervention in its former African colonies: it undertook 45 military operations in its former colonies between 1960 and 2005. Total, the French energy giant, has indicated that there may be an abundance of oil and gas to explore in northern Mali and neighboring Mauritania, Cronin notes.

Israel/Palestine
8) The UN General Assembly's vote of November 29 overwhelmingly recognising Palestine's "state status" and President Mahmoud Abbas' decree of January 3 absorbing the former "Palestinian Authority" into the State of Palestine have established the State of Palestine on the soil of Palestine, writes international lawyer John Whitbeck in Al Jazeera. The only legally, politically and diplomatically correct ways to refer to the 22 percent portion of historical Palestine occupied in 1967 are now "the State of Palestine", "Palestine" and "occupied Palestine," Whitbeck writes. "Palestinian Authority", "occupied territories" and "occupied Palestinian territories" are no longer acceptable.

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) Sept. 11 authorization not applicable to Mali
Robert Naiman, Letter to the Editor, Washington Post, January 18
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/sept-11-authorization-not-applicable-to-mali/2013/01/18/0611d8be-60c1-11e2-bc4f-1f06fffb7acf_story.html

The choices that U.S. officials are reportedly considering for a military intervention in Mali have grave implications ["U.S. weighs military aid for France in Mali," news story, Jan. 16]. The Post reported that a senior U.S. official said, "Contingency plans for the use of armed drones were already in place and are being reevaluated." Congress has not authorized U.S. military action in Mali. Without such authorization, the Obama administration cannot send armed drones to Mali under the War Powers Resolution.

The administration might be tempted to try to invoke Congress's 2001 authorization for the use of force after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But as a Post editorial noted in November, "The further - in geography, time and organizational connection - that the drone war advances from the original al-Qaeda target in Afghanistan, the less validity it has under the 2001 congressional authorization. ... [M]ost of the world is unlikely to accept an argument that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks justify drone strikes more than a decade later in Northern Africa."

As The Post reported, some of the fighters likely to be targeted by France have nothing to do with al-Qaeda or the Sept. 11 attacks and are not a threat to the United States, so U.S. military action against them cannot be justified under the 2001 authorization.

Robert Naiman, Urbana, Ill.

The writer is policy director for Just Foreign Policy.

2) Mali conflict exposes White House-Pentagon split
Officials disagree on the degree of danger posed by Islamist militants in West Africa. Some top U.S. military officials warn aggressive action is needed.
David S. Cloud, Shashank Bengali and Ken Dilanian, Los Angeles Times, 6:01 PM PST, January 18, 2013
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-us-mali-20130119,0,1649925.story

Washington - The widening war in Mali has opened divisions between the White House and the Pentagon over the danger posed by a mix of Islamist militant groups, some with murky ties to Al Qaeda, that are creating havoc in West Africa.

Although no one is suggesting that the groups pose an imminent threat to the United States, the French military intervention in Mali and a terrorist attack against an international gas complex in neighboring Algeria have prompted sharp Obama administration debate over whether the militants present enough of a risk to U.S. allies or interests to warrant a military response.

Some top Pentagon officials and military officers warn that without more aggressive U.S. action, Mali could become a haven for extremists, akin to Afghanistan before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Militants in Mali, "if left unaddressed, ... will obtain capability to match their intent - that being to extend their reach and control and to attack American interests," Army Gen. Carter Ham, head of the U.S. Africa Command, said in an interview.

But many of Obama's top aides say it is unclear whether the Mali insurgents, who include members of the group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, threaten the U.S.

Those aides also worry about being drawn into a messy and possibly long-running conflict against an elusive enemy in Mali, a vast landlocked country abutting the Sahara desert, just as U.S. forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan.

"No one here is questioning the threat that AQIM poses regionally," said an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity when discussing internal deliberations. "The question we all need to ask is, what threat do they pose to the U.S. homeland? The answer so far has been none."
[...]
The internal debate is one reason for a delay in U.S. support for the French, who airlifted hundreds of troops into Mali last weekend and launched airstrikes in an effort to halt the militants from pushing out of their northern stronghold toward Bamako, the Malian capital.

The Pentagon is planning to begin ferrying additional French troops and equipment to Mali in coming days aboard U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo jets, according to Air Force Maj. Robert Firman, a Pentagon spokesman.

Military planners are still studying the airport runways in Bamako to determine whether they can handle the huge C-17s. If not, they will land elsewhere and the French troops will be flown into Mali on smaller aircraft. French officials have asked the U.S. to transport an armored infantry battalion of 500 to 600 soldiers, plus vehicles and other equipment.

The U.S. is also providing France with surveillance and other intelligence on the militants.

But the administration has so far balked at a French request for tanker aircraft to provide in-air refueling of French fighter jets because the White House does not yet want to get directly involved in supporting French combat operations, officials said.

U.S. officials have ruled out putting troops on the ground, except in small numbers and only to support the French.

"I think the U.S. ambivalence about moving into Mali is very understandable," said Richard Barrett, a former British diplomat who serves as United Nations counter-terrorism coordinator. Noting the instances where U.S. forces have been drawn into conflict with Islamic militants, he said, "Why would they want another one, for God's sake? It's such a difficult area to operate in."

After 2001, Washington tried to tamp down Islamic extremism in Mali under a counter-terrorism initiative that combined anti-poverty programs with training for the military. The U.S. aid was halted, however, when military officers overthrew the government last March in a violent coup.

Gen. Ham has warned for months that AQIM was growing stronger and intended to carry out attacks in the region and elsewhere. To combat the threat, some officers favor building closer ties with governments in the region and boosting intelligence-gathering and special operations.

But other administration officials question the need for a bigger U.S. effort.

Johnnie Carson, who heads the Africa bureau at the State Department, told Congress in June that AQIM "has not demonstrated the capability to threaten U.S. interests outside of West or North Africa, and it has not threatened to attack the U.S. homeland."

The September attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, has provided fodder for both sides: AQIM members participated, U.S. intelligence officials have said, but the U.S. has found no evidence the attack was ordered or planned by AQIM.
[...]
The militant groups "all appear to me to be essentially criminal networks based on kidnapping and smuggling … having little to do with Islam or with the remnants of Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan," said John Campbell, a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria now at the Council on Foreign Relations.
[...]

3) Israel removes Palestinian protest camp outside Jerusalem
Tent city pitched near Beit Iksa just a week after Israel evacuated Palestinian encampment in E-1.
Reuters, Jan.21, 2013 | 2:15 PM
http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israel-removes-palestinian-protest-camp-outside-jerusalem-1.495335

Israeli security forces removed Palestinian protest tents from land adjoining a Jewish settlement in the West Bank on Monday, the second such camp to be torn down in a week.

Palestinian activists had pitched tents near the village of Beit Iksa, northwest of Jerusalem, where residents face difficulty building homes due to Israeli restrictions and may be surrounded by a separation barrier Israel plans for the area.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, widely predicted to win a third term in an election on Tuesday, has pledged to pursue settlement building in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, occupied land that Israel has annexed in a move not recognized internationally.

"Israeli border police evacuated the structures, removing some 20 people who were there and confiscating the tents and equipment," an Israeli security source told Reuters.

Activists from the camp, which they dubbed Bab al-Karama, "the Gateway of Dignity", vowed to continue pitching tents on areas they say are threatened by Israeli settlement expansion.

"The demolition of Bab al-Karama does not mean the end of our stand. Activists will again occupy the site on which the village was built and they will rebuild their tents when the opportunity arises," activist Nabil Hababa said.

Last week, many of the same protesters were evicted by Israeli forces from a protest camp in an area outside Jerusalem known as E1, earmarked by Israel for new settlements that Palestinians say will split the West Bank in two.

Haaretz has learned that Defense Minister Ehud Barak plans to change the proposed route of its separation barrier to prevent Palestinian access to the E-1 area. The Defense Minister's bureau referred Haaretz's request for comment to the office of the Israel Defense Forces coordinator of activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, who did not respond by press time. Speaking to Reuters, a ministry official denied the report.
[...]

4) CIA drone strikes will get pass in counterterrorism 'playbook,' officials say
Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima and Karen DeYoung, January 19
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/cia-drone-strikes-will-get-pass-in-counterterrorism-playbook-officials-say/2013/01/19/ca169a20-618d-11e2-9940-6fc488f3fecd_story.html

The Obama administration is nearing completion of a detailed counterterrorism manual that is designed to establish clear rules for targeted-killing operations but leaves open a major exemption for the CIA's campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan, U.S. officials said.

The carve-out would allow the CIA to continue pounding al-Qaeda and Taliban targets for a year or more before the agency is forced to comply with more stringent rules spelled out in a classified document that officials have described as a counterterrorism "playbook."

The document, which is expected to be submitted to President Obama for final approval within weeks, marks the culmination of a year-long effort by the White House to codify its counterterrorism policies and create a guide for lethal operations through Obama's second term.

A senior U.S. official involved in drafting the document said that a few issues remain unresolved but described them as minor. The senior U.S. official said the playbook "will be done shortly."

The adoption of a formal guide to targeted killing marks a significant - and to some uncomfortable - milestone: the institutionalization of a practice that would have seemed anathema to many before the Sept. 11 , 2001, terrorist attacks.

Among the subjects covered in the playbook are the process for adding names to kill lists, the legal principles that govern when U.S. citizens can be targeted overseas and the sequence of approvals required when the CIA or U.S. military conducts drone strikes outside war zones.

U.S. officials said the effort to draft the playbook was nearly derailed late last year by disagreements among the State Department, the CIA and the Pentagon on the criteria for lethal strikes and other issues. Granting the CIA a temporary exemption for its Pakistan operations was described as a compromise that allowed officials to move forward with other parts of the playbook.

The decision to allow the CIA strikes to continue was driven in part by concern that the window for weakening al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan is beginning to close, with plans to pull most U.S. troops out of neighboring Afghanistan over the next two years. CIA drones are flown out of bases in Afghanistan.

"There's a sense that you put the pedal to the metal now, especially given the impending" withdrawal, said a former U.S. official involved in discussions of the playbook. The CIA exception is expected to be in effect for "less than two years but more than one," the former official said, although he noted that any decision to close the carve-out "will undoubtedly be predicated on facts on the ground."
[...]

The effort to create a playbook was initially disclosed last year by The Washington Post. Brennan's aim in developing it, officials said at the time, was to impose more consistent and rigorous controls on counterterrorism programs that were largely ad-hoc in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Critics see the manual as a symbol of the extent to which the targeted killing program has become institutionalized, part of an apparatus being assembled by the Obama administration to sustain a seemingly permanent war.

The playbook is "a step in exactly the wrong direction, a further bureaucratization of the CIA's paramilitary killing program" over the legal and moral objections of civil liberties groups, said Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberty Union's National Security Project.

Some administration officials have also voiced concern about the duration of the drone campaign, which has spread from Pakistan to Yemen and Somalia where it involves both CIA and military strikes. In a recent speech before he stepped down as Pentagon general counsel, Jeh Johnson warned that "we must not accept the current conflict, and all that it entails, as the 'new normal.' "

The discussions surrounding the development of the playbook were centered on practical considerations, officials said. One of the main points of contention, they said, was the issue of "signature strikes."

The term refers to the CIA's practice of approving strikes in Pakistan based on patterns of suspicious behavior - moving stockpiles of weapons, for example - even when the agency does not have clear intelligence about the identities of the targets.

CIA officials have credited the approach with decimating al-Qaeda's upper ranks there, paradoxically accounting for the deaths of more senior terrorist operatives than in the strikes carried out when the agency knew the identity and location of a target in advance.

Signature strikes contributed to a surge in the drone campaign in 2010, when the agency carried out a record 117 strikes in Pakistan. The pace tapered off over the past two years before quickening again in recent weeks.

Despite CIA assertions about the effectiveness of signature strikes, Obama has not granted similar authority to the CIA or military in Yemen, Somalia or other countries patrolled by armed U.S. drones. The restraint has not mollified some critics, who say the secrecy surrounding the strikes in Yemen and Somalia means there is no way to assess who is being killed.

In Yemen, officials said, strikes have been permitted only in cases in which intelligence indicates a specific threat to Americans. That could include "individuals who are personally involved in trying to kill Americans," a senior administration official said, or "intelligence that ... [for example] a truck has been configured in order to go after our embassy in Sanaa."

The playbook has adopted that tighter standard and imposes other more stringent rules. Among them are requirements for White House approval of drone strikes and the involvement of multiple agencies - including the State Department - in nominating new names for kill lists.

None of those rules applies to the CIA drone campaign in Pakistan, which began under President George W. Bush. The agency is expected to give the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan advance notice on strikes. But in practice, officials said, the agency exercises near complete control over the names on its target list and decisions on strikes.

Imposing the playbook standards on the CIA campaign in Pakistan would probably lead to a sharp reduction in the number of strikes at a time when Obama is preparing to announce a drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan that could leave as few as 2,500 troops in place after 2014.
[...]
Brennan's confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee is scheduled for Feb. 7.

5) The Iraq War 'Surge' Myth Returns
To win Senate approval as Defense Secretary, former Sen. Chuck Hagel likely will be forced to bow before Official Washington's cherished myth of the Iraq War's "successful surge." To tell the more nuanced truth would open Hagel to another round of neocon attacks, writes Robert Parry.
Robert Parry, Consortium News, January 17, 2013
http://consortiumnews.com/2013/01/17/the-iraq-war-surge-myth-returns/

At confirmation hearings for Defense Secretary-designate Chuck Hagel, Official Washington will reprise one of its favorite myths, the story of the "successful surge" in Iraq. Politicians and pundits have made clear that the Senate Armed Services Committee should hector Hagel over his opposition to President George W. Bush's 2007 "surge" of 30,000 troops into that failed war.

These "surge" lovers, who insist that Hagel be taken to task for his supposedly bad judgment over the "surge," include MSNBC's favorite neocon, Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, and conservative columnist George F. Will, who said Hagel should be asked, "If the surge had not happened, what would have happened in Iraq?"

Most likely, former Sen. Hagel, R-Nebraska, will judge that discretion is the better part of valor and admit his "mistake" – rather than challenge such a deeply entrenched Washington myth. However, an honest answer to Will's question would be that the "surge" sacrificed nearly 1,000 additional U.S. military dead (and killed countless innocent Iraqis) while contributing very little to the war's outcome.

Any serious analysis of what happened in Iraq in 2007-08 would trace the decline in Iraqi sectarian violence mostly to strategies that predated the "surge" and were implemented by the U.S. commanding generals in 2006, George Casey and John Abizaid, who wanted as small a U.S. "footprint" as possible to tamp down Iraqi nationalism.

Among their initiatives, Casey and Abizaid ran a highly classified operation to eliminate key al-Qaeda leaders, most notably the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in June 2006. Casey and Abizaid also exploited growing Sunni animosities toward al-Qaeda extremists by paying off Sunni militants to join the so-called "Awakening" in Anbar Province.

And, as the Sunni-Shiite sectarian killings reached horrendous levels in 2006, the U.S. military assisted in the de facto ethnic cleansing of mixed neighborhoods by helping Sunnis and Shiites move into separate enclaves – protected by concrete barriers – thus making the targeting of ethnic enemies more difficult. In other words, the flames of violence were likely to have abated whether Bush ordered the "surge" or not.

Radical Shiite leader Moktada al-Sadr also helped by issuing a unilateral cease-fire, reportedly at the urging of his patrons in Iran who were interested in cooling down regional tensions and speeding up the U.S. withdrawal. By 2008, another factor in the declining violence was the growing awareness among Iraqis that the U.S. military's occupation indeed was coming to an end. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was demanding a firm timetable for American withdrawal from Bush, who finally capitulated.

Even author Bob Woodward, who had published best-sellers that praised Bush's early war judgments, concluded that the "surge" was only one factor and possibly not even a major one in the declining violence.

In his book, The War Within, Woodward wrote, "In Washington, conventional wisdom translated these events into a simple view: The surge had worked. But the full story was more complicated. At least three other factors were as important as, or even more important than, the surge."

Woodward, whose book drew heavily from Pentagon insiders, listed the Sunni rejection of al-Qaeda extremists in Anbar Province and the surprise decision of al-Sadr to order a cease-fire as two important factors. A third factor, which Woodward argued may have been the most significant, was the use of new highly classified U.S. intelligence tactics that allowed for rapid targeting and killing of insurgent leaders.
[...]
With the new conventional wisdom firmly established in 2008, media stars pounded Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama for his heresy regarding the "surge." In major televised interviews, CBS News' Katie Couric and ABC News' George Stephanopoulos demanded that Obama admit he was wrong to oppose the "surge" and that his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, was right to support it.

For weeks, Obama held firm, insisting correctly that the issue was more complicated than his interviewers wanted to admit. He argued that there were many factors behind Iraq's changed security environment. But ultimately he caved in while being interrogated on Sept. 4 by Fox News' Bill O'Reilly.

"I think that the surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated," Obama confessed to O'Reilly. "It's succeeded beyond our wildest dreams."

Much as Hagel is likely to do, Obama judged that continued resistance to this Washington "group think" was futile. But candidate Obama's surrender on the "successful surge" myth had long-term consequences.

For one, it gave Gen. Petraeus and Defense Secretary Gates inflated reputations inside Official Washington and greater leverage in 2009 to force President Obama into accepting a similar "surge" in Afghanistan, what some analysts now regard as Obama's biggest national security blunder.
[...]
The hard truth is that this bloody folly was not "salvaged" by the "surge" despite what the likes of Michael O'Hanlon and George F. Will claim. The "surge" simply extended the killing for a few more years and bought Bush and Cheney their "decent interval."

But none of this reality has persuaded Official Washington to rethink its "successful surge" orthodoxy – and more likely than not, Chuck Hagel will be forced to genuflect before this conventional wisdom to win his Senate confirmation.

Mali
6) Malian forces abusing, killing civilians:Human Rights Watch
Reuters, Sun, Jan 20, 2013
http://news.yahoo.com/malian-forces-abusing-killing-civilians-human-rights-watch-082628919.html

Dakar (Reuters) - Human Rights Watch said on Saturday it had received credible reports of serious abuses, including killings, being committed by Malian security forces against civilians around the central town of Niono.

"We urge the Malian authorities, as well as the French and (West African) soldiers/authorities to do their utmost to ensure the protection of all civilians," the New York-based group said in a statement.

HRW said that Tuaregs and Arabs, ethnic groups most associated with rebels who have controlled Mali's north, were being especially targeted.
[...]

7) France's power games in Africa
David Cronin, New Europe, January 21, 2013
http://www.neurope.eu/article/france-s-power-games-africa

Supporters of France's military intervention in Mali want us to applaud it as a great act of charity. François Hollande, their argument goes, is protecting the government in Bamako from armed extremists. The "free world" should be grateful that he has taken this selfless stance.

The problem with this "analysis" is that it is wrong.

Hollande may try to give the impression that he has launched some kind of "humanitarian" mission. This idea falls apart when you realise that the Malian authorities - which Hollande is so determined to help - stand accused of many human rights violations. Amnesty International has documented how the Malian security forces have carried out extrajudicial executions of Touareg civilians, killings of farm animals on which nomads depend for their livelihood and an indiscriminate attack on a Touareg camp.

In reality, Hollande is pursuing a policy that can be traced back to Charles de Gaulle, who believed that -- despite granting its colonies independence - France must retain a strong influence in sub-Saharan Africa.

Indeed, the French elite seems to have had trouble accepting that it no longer "owns" a big chunk of Africa. When the Cold War ended, France had 10,000 troops and a number of military bases in Africa. This presence has been largely retained, even if the pretexts that "justified" it have disappeared. Recent history is also littered with cases of France meddling in the continent: it undertook 45 military operations in its former colonies between 1960 and 2005.

A glance at a map is sufficient to understand how Mali fits into France's ambit. It borders other ex-colonies like Algeria, which Hollande visited in December, accompanied by 40 senior businessmen, and Niger, a major source of uranium used by the French nuclear firm Areva.

Total, the French energy giant, has indicated that there may be an abundance of oil and gas to explore in northern Mali and neighbouring Mauritania. Jean François Arrighi de Casanova, a Total representative, has even spoken of a "new El Dorado" in that area.

Northern Mali is - according to the EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton - a hotbed "for all kinds of trafficking, drugs, arms smuggling" by those "terrorists" (her word) that France is fighting. One does not need to be a conspiracy theorist to suspect that the French elite is more interested in preventing insurgents from interfering with Total's work than in championing Mali's population.
[...]
I have no doubt that the insurgents in northern Mali have done appalling things - including, it seems, recruiting child soldiers. But is France solely motivated by revulsion at their human rights abuses?

Of course, it isn't. France was willing to tolerate the activities of insurgents in other parts of Africa, whenever it was deemed politically expedient to do so. France had little difficulty with how insurgents controlled the northern part of Côte d'Ivoire between 2002 and 2011. In that case, the insurgents were described as "rebels", not "terrorists" in Europe. That was because they backed Alassane Outtara, the one-time International Monetary Fund staffer who is now his country's president. France had been eager to have Outarra in power. The official narrative says that France was acting against the brutality of his predecessor Laurent Gbagbo. Yet there are good reasons to surmise that France's real aim was to have someone in office who could be relied on to look after its commercial interests, particularly in Côte d'Ivoire's electricity and water networks.
[...]
If France was truly committed to helping sub-Saharan Africa, it would have honoured its decades-old pledge to devote at least 0.7% of its gross domestic product to alleviating global poverty. As things stand, France allocates less than 0.5% of its GDP for that purpose. And the proportion of its development aid going to vital health and education projects is below 20%. The life expectancy of a Malian is just 51 years, compared to 81 for a French person.

By contrast, France spends more than 2% of its GDP on the military. Despite how it was vilified in the US a decade ago for Jacques Chirac's opposition to the Iraq war, France rivals Britain for the title of Western Europe's most trigger-happy nation. Two years ago, it was the first to attack Libya. Now it has bombed Mali on equally spurious grounds.

Let us be clear: France's policies towards Africa are not about altruism. They are about power.

Israel/Palestine
8) Partitioning the "two-state solution"
Semantic acceptance of the term 'State of Palestine' is of fundamental importance to the peace process, writes author.
John V Whitbeck, Al Jazeera, 18 Jan 2013 06:40
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/01/2013115135334416420.html

[Whitbeck is an international lawyer who has served as a legal advisor to the Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel.]

Words matter. They shape perceptions and understanding, both of past and present events and of future possibilities, and, therefore future events.

The UN General Assembly's vote of November 29 overwhelmingly recognising Palestine's "state status" and President Mahmoud Abbas' decree of January 3 absorbing the former "Palestinian Authority" into the State of Palestine have established the State of Palestine on the soil of Palestine. It has become both a legal and a practical "fact on the ground" which cannot be ignored.

The words "two-state solution" have been recited together for so long that it is widely assumed that they are inseparable and that one cannot have one without the other. Indeed, Israel and the United States argue relentlessly that a Palestinian state can only exist as the result of a negotiated "solution" acceptable to Israel. Were this the case, the occupying power, which has never shown any genuine enthusiasm for a Palestinian state and has barely feigned any pretense of interest in recent years, would enjoy an absolute and perpetual veto power over Palestinian statehood.

During Kuwait's seven-month-long occupation by Iraq, Kuwait did not cease to exist as a state under international law and no one argued that it could exist as a state only as the result of a negotiated "solution" acceptable to Iraq. Similarly, Iraq did not cease to be a state while under American occupation. It was simply an occupied state, like Palestine today.

Furthermore, the US government might usefully recall that, during the 50 years prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States continued to recognise the three Baltic states which had been effectively absorbed into the Soviet Union by the end of World War II and permitted the prewar flags of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to fly at fully accredited embassies in Washington.

In fact, "two states" are separable from any "solution". Two states now exist, even though one remains under varying degrees of occupation by the other. A "solution" which ends the 45-year-long occupation of the Palestinian state and permits Israelis and Palestinians to live together in peace and security - with, ideally, a significant degree of openness, cooperation and mutual respect - does not yet exist.

The existence of two states certainly does not guarantee the achievement of such a solution. However, the near-universal recognition and acceptance that two states, "on the basis of the pre-1967 borders" and with the "State of Palestine on the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967" (to quote the UN General Assembly Resolution), do already exist should greatly facilitate - eventually if not immediately - the achievement of such a solution.

The near-universality of international acceptance that Palestine already exists as a state may be appreciated by a close examination of diplomatic recognitions and votes on November 29. Prior to that vote, the State of Palestine had already been recognised diplomatically by 131 of the 193 UN member states. During that vote, a further 28 states which had not yet accorded diplomatic recognition to the State of Palestine voted to accord it state status at the United Nations. Only 34 states have not yet pronounced themselves, in either manner, in favour of Palestine's state status.

It is instructive to take a close look at these 34 states. They are Andorra, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Cameroon, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, Estonia, Fiji, Germany, Guatemala, Haiti, Israel, Kiribati, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Nauru, the Netherlands, Palau, Panama, Samoa, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, South Korea, Tonga, the United Kingdom and the United States.

With a few notable exceptions, the members of this group are most impressive for their insignificance. Only 12 of the 34 states (Israel among them) have populations over 5,000,000, while nine have populations below 120,000. By contrast, of the world's 20 most populous states, 16 have extended diplomatic recognition to the State of Palestine and two others (Japan and Mexico) voted to accord it state status.

Friends of justice, peace and the Palestinian people - and, indeed, true friends of the Israeli people - must now revise their language when speaking and writing about Palestine. The only legally, politically and diplomatically correct ways to refer to the 22 percent portion of historical Palestine occupied in 1967 are now "the State of Palestine", "Palestine" and "occupied Palestine". "Palestinian Authority", "occupied territories" and "occupied Palestinian territories" are no longer acceptable.

If governments and international media - including, most importantly, governments and media in North America and Europe - can be convinced or shamed into using the correct terminology, the long-term impact on public perceptions and understanding should be profound and constructive.

The issue is no longer whether and how a Palestinian state will ever come into existence - or even whether it is still possible. It exists. The issue is when and how the occupation of the State of Palestine will come to an end. Describing this challenge properly is essential to understanding it, and this understanding is essential if Israelis are to turn back from the suicidal cliff toward which their metastasizing illegal settlement project has been driving them in recent years.

Israelis, Palestinians and the true friends of both must now see clearly, raise their sights and pursue a compelling vision of a society so much better than the status quo that both Israelis and Palestinians are inspired to accept in their hearts and minds that peace is both desirable and attainable, that the Holy Land can be shared, that a winner-take-all approach produces only losers, that both Israelis and Palestinians must be winners or both will continue to be losers and that there is a common destination at which both peoples would be satisfied to arrive and to live together.

--
Just Foreign Policy is a membership organization devoted to reforming US foreign policy so it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans. The archive of the Just 'Foreign Policy News is here:

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/blog/dailynews

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If one needs any evidence of the CIA's historic record of incompetence, one can read Tim Weiner's, "A Legacy of Ashes: A History of the CIA." However, what really confounds me is how one can justify the very existence of an US government agency which acts in total secrecy from the people who fund it.

Certainly it is a perversion of any semblance of government accountability to argue any agency is empowered to act in the name of the American people, but is not accountable to the very people they supposedly serve.

Perhaps my view is indelibly colored by an experience I had in the early 1960s while taking a course on US Constitutional history from Prof. Foster Rhea Dulles. Prof. Dulles was a brother to both Alan Dulles, a founder of the CIA and John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower's Secretary of State. Prof. Dulles mentioned his brothers and commented, "one is an idiot and the other is a liar. A student asked which was which and Prof. Dulles replied, "I'm sorry, I'm not allowed to say. It's a national security issue." Given that one of Alan Dulles's closest friends during the WWII years and after was the renown Soviet agent Kim Philby, I can guess who was the idiot.

In sum, can we really justify putting repugnant weapons in the hands of an agency that an history of amoral incompetent acts? If America really wants to preserve its admirable values it can start by dispensing with the CIA and the use of weapons of terror.

WE are involved in too many Third World cesspools, we don't need to get involved with Mali

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