Antiwar.com director of operations Angela Keaton sat down with Libertarian Party activist Mike Benoit to discuss the history of Antiwar.com, how war undermines American values and the decline of civil liberties in the US under empire.
The mass media have suddenly discovered Jeffrey Sterling – after his conviction Monday afternoon as a CIA whistleblower.
Sterling’s indictment four years ago received fleeting news coverage that recited the government’s charges. From the outset, the Justice Department portrayed him as bitter and vengeful – with the classic trash-the-whistleblower word “disgruntled” thrown in – all of which the mainline media dutifully recounted without any other perspective.
Year after year, Sterling’s case dragged through appellate courts, tangled up with the honorable refusal of journalist James Risen to in any way identify sources for his 2006 book State of War. While news stories or pundits occasionally turned their lens on Risen, they scarcely mentioned Sterling, whose life had been turned upside down – fired by the CIA early in the Bush administration after filing a racial discrimination lawsuit, and much later by the 10-count indictment that included seven counts under the Espionage Act.
Sterling was one of the very few African American case officers in the CIA. He became a whistleblower by virtue of going through channels to the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2003 to inform staffers about the CIA’s ill-conceived, poorly executed and dangerous Operation Merlin, which had given a flawed design for a nuclear weapons component to Iran back in 2000.
The most harrowing scene in American Sniper involves an Iraqi character nicknamed “The Butcher” torturing and executing an Iraqi child by taking a power drill to his skull. The scene lends credibility to the narrative of Chris Kyle as basically a hero facing villains. In the film, “The Butcher” is a lieutenant of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Sunni insurgent, terrorist, and founder of Al Qaeda in Iraq, which later became ISIS.
However, in the Iraq of the real world, power drilling human heads is more of a predilection, not of Sunni insurgents, but of their enemies in the Shiite militias.
For one, there is the warlord Abu Deraa, nicknamed “the Shiite Zarqawi,” who according to the UK’s Sunday Times (emphasis added):
“…is thought to be responsible for the murder of thousands of civilians, mostly Sunnis, and is said to take personal delight in killing — sometimes with a bullet to the head, sometimes by driving a drill into the skulls of his victims. On other occasions, Iraqis say, he gives them a choice of being shot or battered to death with concrete building blocks.”
AQI/ISIS falsely claimed to have killed him in 2006, but after years of hiding in Iran, he recently reemerged in Baghdad once again leading a militia.
Then there is Hadi al-Amiri, head of the Iran-backed Badr Brigade. According to The Washington Post, “A leaked 2009 State Department cable said sources had indicated that Amiri may have personally ordered attacks on up to 2,000 Sunnis.” The Post continues (emphasis added):
“…in 2005 and 2006, sectarian killings in Iraq surged as Badr death squads worked under the cloak of the police force.
The 2009 State Department cable, referring to that era, said that ‘one of [Amiri’s] preferred methods of killing allegedly involved using a power drill to pierce the skulls of his adversaries.‘”
Electric Drill Amiri is now, according to the Post, effectively the head of security in Iraq:
“Iraq’s parliament voted Saturday to put an affiliate of an Iranian-backed paramilitary group in charge of a key security ministry, a move that could strike a serious blow to efforts to unite Sunnis and Shiites to wrest back their country from Islamist extremists.
The new interior minister is Mohammed Ghabban, a little-known Shiite politician with the Badr Organization. But there is little doubt that Hadi al-Amiri, head of the party and its military wing, will wield the real power in the ministry.”
Both of these Iran-sponsored real-life head-drilling “butchers” of Iraq rose to power thanks to the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, and are now commanding forces either in the US-backed Iraqi government, or under its protection, fighting alongside the US military against the now ISIS-lead Sunni insurgency. At the end of the day, the American Sniper was not the enemy of the Iraqi Butchers, but their benefactor.
As radio host Scott Horton never tires reminding his listeners, the chief role of the American troops in Iraq was to fight a bloody civil war on behalf of the Shiite side and to install Iran-backed Shiite militias in power. These militias used death squads to ethnically cleanse Baghdad and other cities of Sunnis, and, as Will Grigg never tires reminding his readers, imposed a Sharia-compliant constitution over a once-secular country. This Shiite jihad was, in effect, Chris Kyle’s true mission, for which millions of American Christians now lionize him.
Continuing to deliberate as this week gets underway, the jurors in the CIA leak trial might ponder a notable claim from the government: “This case is not about politics.”
The prosecution made that claim a few days ago in closing arguments – begun with a somber quotation from Condoleezza Rice about the crucial need to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. Of course prosecutor Eric Olshan was not foolish enough to quote Rice’s most famous line: “We don’t want the smoking gun to become a mushroom cloud.”
During the seven days of the trial, which received scant media coverage, Rice attracted the most attention. But little of her testimony actually got out of the courtroom, and little of what did get out illuminated the political context of the government’s case against former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling.
A heavy shroud over this trial – almost hidden by news media in plain sight – has been context: the CIA’s collusion with the Bush White House a dozen years ago, using WMD fear and fabrication to stampede the United States into making war on Iraq.
The Interview wasn’t exactly a great movie. The hype surrounding the Sony Pictures hack was by far its most memorable aspect. It did include a scene showing the death of Kim Jong Un, however, and that’s pretty great from the UN point of view.
UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in North Korea Marzuki Darusman praised the movie for “putting pressure” on Kim, saying the film “hit a raw nerve” and that more films of that sort are what is needed right now.
“This is a new thing, spotlighting the leadership and ridiculing the leadership. In any authoritarian, totalitarian system, that is an Achilles’ heel,” Darusman insisted, saying that if the ridicule from such movies seeps into the North Korean public “it could be lethal for the regime.”
Of course, Darusman is still doing his occasional report on human rights violations in North Korea, but he’s not putting his eggs in that basket, not when there are mid-budget Seth Rogen vehicles to be made.
The Bureau of Prisons contacted me today, assigning me a prison number and a new address: for the next 90 days, beginning tomorrow, I’ll live at FMC Lexington, in the satellite prison camp for women, adjacent to Lexington’s federal medical center for men. Very early tomorrow morning, Buddy Bell, Cassandra Dixon, and Paco and Silver, two house guests whom we first met in protests on South Korea’s Jeju Island, will travel with me to Kentucky and deliver me to the satellite women’s prison outside the Federal Medical Center for men.
In December, 2014, Judge Matt Whitworth sentenced me to three months in federal prison after Georgia Walker and I had attempted to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter to the commander of Whiteman Air Force base, asking him to stop his troops from piloting lethal drone flights over Afghanistan from within the base. Judge Whitworth allowed me over a month to surrender myself to prison; but whether you are a soldier or a civilian, a target or an unlucky bystander, you can’t surrender to a drone.
When I was imprisoned at Lexington prison in 1988, after a federal magistrate in Missouri sentenced me to one year in prison for planting corn on nuclear missile silo sites, other women prisoners playfully nicknamed me "Missiles." One of my sisters reliably made me laugh today, texting me to ask if I thought the women this time would call me "Drones."
It’s good to laugh and feel camaraderie before heading into prison. For someone like me, very nearly saturated in "white privilege" through much of this arrest, trial, and sentencing process, 90% (or more) of my experience will likely depend on attitude.