Saturday, November 29, 2008

Karachi on the brink

The biggest city in Pakistan is on the brink of violent conflagration. Karachi is a mixture of neighborhoods (slums) belonging to different ethnic groups including the local Sindhis, Pashtoons, and Muhajirs (refugees). The Muhajirs are descendants of people who migrated from India after the 1947 but still identify themselves as refugees. They are the dominant political class in the city and the goverment of the city is the MQM a thuggish group which counts the muhajirs as their base. However, there has been an increasing shift in power to Pashtun drug lords. The whole-hearted support the MQM gave to Musharraff - a fellow Muhajir - is probably not helping them now either. There is increasing tension between the Pashtun and the Muhajir bosses and this is being reflected in increasing violence between the ethnic groups.


The MQM representing the Muhajirs and the ANP representing the Pashtoons have called for calm. However, other reports say that they have not taken any steps beyond the call.

Sources said that, on Sunday, neither did the three parties’ leaders meet nor had the Coordination Committee constituted by Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad held its first formal meeting to review the city situation.

The committee was constituted to point out the problems and come up with proposals to improve the situation.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

One could always hope

From an Andrew Bacevich editorial from July (h/t Think Progress).
The challenge facing Obama is clear: he must go beyond merely pointing out the folly of the Iraq war; he must demonstrate that Iraq represents the truest manifestation of an approach to national security that is fundamentally flawed, thereby helping Americans discern the correct lessons of that misbegotten conflict.

This is a stiff test, not the work of a speech or two, but of an entire campaign. Whether or not Obama passes the test will determine his fitness for the presidency.

Andrew Bacevich's recent interview with ThinkProgress.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Meet the new boss - torture and wiretap edition (updated below)

The [Obama/Biden] intelligence-transition team is led by former National Counterterrorism Center chief John Brennan and former CIA intelligence-analysis director Jami Miscik, say officials close to the matter. Mr. Brennan is viewed as a potential candidate for a top intelligence post.
Wall Street Journal "Intelligence Policy to Stay Largely Intact," 11/11/2008

BRENNAN: Well, the CIA has acknowledged that it has detained about 100 terrorists since 9/11, and about a third of them have been subjected to what the CIA refers to as "enhanced interrogation tactics." And only a small proportion of those have, in fact, been subjected to the most serious types of enhanced procedures.

SMITH: And you say some of this has born fruit.

BRENNAN: There has been a lot of information that has come out from these interrogation procedures that the agency has, in fact, used against the real hardcore terrorists. It has saved lives. And let's not forget, these are hardened terrorists who have been responsible for 9/11, who have shown no remorse at all for the death of 3,000 innocents.

SMITH: John Brennan, we thank you very, very much for enlightening us this morning. We really do appreciate it.

John Brennan on the CBS Early Show, 11/2/2007

Q: Assess the debate in Congress and with the administration over reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. [Democratic lawmakers allowed the temporary extension of that law, the Protect America Act, to expire, over the vehement objections of the White House.] Why has it come to this point where politics has arguably pulled things off the rails?

Brennan: There is this great debate over whether or not the telecom companies should in fact be given immunity for their agreement to provide support and cooperate with the government after 9/11. I do believe strongly that they should be granted that immunity, because they were told to do so by the appropriate authorities that were operating in a legal context, and so I think that's important. And I know people are concerned about that, but I do believe that's the right thing to do.

Insider Interview John Brennan, National Journal 3/7/2008

Frontline: You were involved in creating the terrorist watch list through the NCTC, right? ... Does it work?

Brennan: It works, I think, very well.

Frontline "The Enemy Within"

The government's centralized terrorist watch list passed the 900,000 name mark this month, according to the ACLU, which estimated the new total by relying on Congressional testimony from the fall that the sprawling list was growing by 20,000 names a month.
Wired 2/27/2008

Update: (h/t Talkleft)

John Brennan, President-elect Barack Obama's top adviser on intelligence, took his name out of the running Tuesday for any intelligence position in the new administration

Brennan wrote in a Nov. 25 letter to Obama that he did not want to be a distraction. His potential appointment has raised a firestorm in liberal blogs that associate him with the Bush administration's interrogation, detention and rendition policies.

An Obama adviser said Brennan made the decision to withdraw on his own and that he will remain heavily involved in the transition. The adviser is not authorized to discuss internal deliberations so asked not to be named.

However, a group of about 200 psychologists published an open letter to Obama on Nov. 22 opposing Brennan's leadership of the CIA. They cited several media interviews in which they deemed Brennan insufficiently opposed to rendition and harsh interrogation to make a clean break with the Bush administration's policies.

They noted that he told the National Journal in March that he would favor "continuity" in intelligence policies in the early days of the Obama administration.

"I would argue for continuity in those early stages. You don't want to whipsaw the (intelligence) community," Brennan said. "I'm hoping there will be a number of professionals coming in who have an understanding of the evolution of the capabilities in the community over the past six years, because there is a method to how things have changed and adapted," he said.

In a 2005 interview on "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," Brennan defended rendition as "an absolutely vital tool."

National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell in 2007 had Brennan on a short list to become his principal deputy director, the second-highest position at the organization.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Meet the new boss ....

From the memory hole:

Remember the aborted attempt by the Democratic congress to insert a clause in the defense appropriation bill which would have required the president to come to congress before initiating military action against Iran. We all remember what happened to that. From a contemporaneous account by Philip Giraldi

Much has been made of the pressure AIPAC successfully exerted to drop a clause in the recent defense appropriation bill for Iraq and Afghanistan prohibiting an attack on Iran without congressional approval. One Democratic congressman, Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, even promised prior to any debate on the matter that the offensive language would be removed. The elimination of that clause erased the one possible impediment to White House plans to bomb the Islamic Republic. Pelosi, who is clearly aware of the overwhelming antiwar sentiment of the Democratic Party base and who wished to include the prohibition on expanded military action, was booed by the AIPAC audience when she criticized the conduct of the war in Iraq. Getting the message very clearly, she bowed to AIPAC's force majeure and quickly supported the deletion of any reference to Iran in the pending legislation. (emphasis added)

And then there was Emanuel's opposition to anti-war democrats. In a 2006 piece entitled "How Rahm Emmanuel Has Rigged a Pro-War Congress" John Walsh summarizes Emmanuel's attempts to stack the deck against anti-war candidates by pouring money into primary campaigns in support of pro-war candidates, some of whom he personally recruited. This makes sense given Emmanuel's view of the Iraq war. He was for the war just not for the inefficient way it was conducted. From a Tim Russert interview in 2005:

MR. RUSSERT: You voted--you said you would have voted for the war if you had been in Congress.


MR. RUSSERT: Now, knowing that are no weapons of mass destruction, would you still have cast that vote?

REP. EMANUEL: Yes. Well, you could have done--well, as you know, I didn't vote for it. I still believe that getting rid of Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do, OK? But how you go about it and how you execute that war is the problems we face today.

Later Russert quotes from a speech by Emanuel from 2003:

"I had the fortunate experience of serving in the White House; I knew firsthand what a solitary and difficult decision it is for a President to send our Armed Forces into harm's way. I will remember some of the members of this body, in the midst of conflict, attacking the President--the commander-in-chief-- even even as he worked day-and-night to complete that mission and bring our servicemen and women home safely. It was wrong then. It would be wrong now. I, for one, will not do that to our President ... to our commander-in-chief. I want him to succeed. We should all want him to succeed. So as long as our troops [are] engaged, we should suspend the debate over how and why, focus on the mission, unite as a country, in prayer and resolve, hope for a speedy resolution of this war with a minimum of loss. God bless America." (emphasis added)

and this from a United Jewish Community profile:

During the congressional campaign, he indicated his support of President Bush's position on Iraq, but said he believed the president needed to better articulate his position to the American people.

And there is always good old Dad (from the Jerusalem Post)

In an interview with Ma'ariv, Emanuel's father, Dr. Benjamin Emanuel, said he was convinced that his son's appointment would be good for Israel. "Obviously he will influence the president to be pro-Israel," he was quoted as saying. "Why wouldn't he be? What is he, an Arab? He's not going to clean the floors of the White House."

Change you can believe in.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Hedges and Nader

Chris Hedges has a post on why he will vote for Nader rather than doing the practical thing and voting for Obama..

I can’t join the practical because I do not see myself exclusively as an American. The narrow, provincial and national lines that divide cultures and races blurred and evaporated during the years I spent in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the Balkans. I built friendships around a shared morality, not a common language, religion, history or tradition. I cannot support any candidate who does not call for immediate withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan and an end to Israeli abuse of Palestinians. We have no moral or legal right to debate the terms of the occupation. And we will recover our sanity as a nation only when our troops have left Iraq and our president flies to Baghdad, kneels before a monument to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi war dead and asks for forgiveness.

We dismiss the suffering of others because it is not our suffering. There are between 600,000 and perhaps a million dead in Iraq. They died because we invaded and occupied their country. At least three Afghan civilians have died at the hands of the occupation forces for every foreign soldier killed this year. The dead Afghans include the 95 people, 60 of them children, killed by an air assault in Azizabad in August and the 47 wedding guests butchered in July during a bombardment in Nangarhar. The Palestinians are forgotten. Obama and McCain, courting the Israeli lobby, do not mention them. The 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza live in a vast open-air prison. Supplies and food dribble through the Israeli blockade. Ninety-five percent of local industries have shut down. Unemployment is rampant. Childhood malnutrition has skyrocketed. A staggering 80 percent of families in Gaza are dependent on international food aid to survive.

It is bad enough that I pay taxes, although I will stop paying taxes if we go to war with Iran. It is bad enough that I have retreated into a safe, privileged corner of the globe, a product of industrialized wealth and militarism. These are enough moral concessions, indeed moral failings. I will not accept that the unlawful use of American military power be politely debated among us like the subtle pros and cons of tort law.