“Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world… Shall we say the odds are too great? … the struggle is too hard? … and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message — of longing, of hope, of solidarity… The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Beyond Vietnam
Kabul – I’ve spent a wonderfully calm morning here in Kabul, listening to bird songs and to the call and response between mothers and their children in neighboring homes as families awaken and prepare their children for school. Maya Evans and I arrived here yesterday, and are just settling into the community quarters of our young hosts, The Afghan Peace Volunteers (APVs). Last night, they told us about the jarring and frightening events that marked the past few months of their lives in Kabul.
They described how they felt when bomb explosions, nearby, awakened them on several mornings. Some said they’d felt almost shell-shocked themselves discovering one recent day that thieves had ransacked their home. They shared their intense feelings of alarm at a notorious warlord’s statement condemning a human rights demonstration in which several community members had participated. And their horror when a few weeks later, in Kabul, a young woman, an Islamic scholar named Farkhunda, was falsely accused in a street argument of desecrating the Koran, after which, to the roared approval of a frenzied mob of perhaps two thousand men, members of the crowd, with apparent police collusion, beat her to death. Our young friends quietly sort through their emotions in the face of inescapable and often overwhelming violence.
I thought about how to incorporate their stories into a course I’ve been preparing for an international online school that intends to help raise consciousness among people, across borders and share the results. I hope the school will help develop movements dedicated to simple living, radical sharing, service and, for many, nonviolent direct action on behalf of ending wars and injustices.
Nearly 65 percent of Americans believe Israel’s clandestine nuclear weapons program should be officially acknowledged. Almost 55 percent believe the program should be subject to international inspections.
The IRmep poll, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percent, was fielded June 4-6 by Google Consumer Surveys and received 1,518 responses.
In May, 2015 the US, UK and Canada blocked a United Nations initiative to create a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East in order to avoid any review of Israel, which is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In contrast, the new poll finds broad popular American support for bringing the region’s only existing program out of the shadows.
Israel maintains a “nuclear ambiguity” policy of neither confirming nor denying possession of nuclear weapons. Since the Nixon administration, American presidents have enforced a gag policy in the US. Federal employees are currently banned from discussing Israel’s arsenal under threat of losing security clearances, job loss and criminal prosecution. Major news media organizations generally fail to cover Israel’s impact on proliferation citing lack of official acknowledgment. In 2009 President Obama refused to answer a direct question about the arsenal.
Presently, according to the poll, only 35% of Americans support such continued official silence on the program.
In mid-May, facing growing public complaints about the militarization of local police forces, President Obama signed an executive order that would ban the Pentagon from transferring certain “inappropriate” military gear, notably grenade launchers and bayonets, to police departments.
Because apparently anything with the word military or any derivatives is going to have support from someone on the Hill, Sen. Pat Toomey (R – PA) today announced a bill aiming to block the president from making any restrictions at all on the transfers.
Toomey complained in an open letter that the White House was weighing the lives of police against the public backlash against militarization and police crackdowns on dissent, insisting the government should never even consider the idea that police are causing unrest through their tactics.
Toomey in particular objected to the banning of certain armored military vehicles from usage except under “certain circumstances.” The ban signed by the White House was related only to vehicles with tank treads.
Interestingly, though Toomey insisted he had no objection to the ban on bayonets, he is insisting on removing all restrictions, including those on bayonets provided to police forces.
Today marks the two year anniversary of the first Snowden disclosures. The anniversary was marked not just with a Snowden op-ed published by the New York Times titled “The World Says No to Surveillance,” but also a major new Vice story on the government’s damage assessment based on documents FOIAed by Jason Leopold.
As Vice notes, the FOIAed documents show how the government provided talking points to members of Congress – some of whom emphasized in briefings they were looking to discredit Snowden – which were then leaked to the press.
After the DIA completed a damage assessment report about how Snowden apparently compromised US counterterrorism operations and threatened national security on December 18, 2013, leaks from the classified report immediately started to surface in the media. They were sourced to members of Congress and unnamed officials who cast Snowden as a “traitor.”
On December 18, the Washington Post’s Walter Pincus published a column, citing anonymous sources, that contained details from the Snowden damage assessment. Three days earlier, 60 Minutes had broadcast a report that was widely condemned as overly sympathetic to the NSA. Foreign Policy and Bloomberg published news stories on January 9, 2014, three days after the damage assessment report was turned over to six congressional oversight committees. Both of those reports quoted a statement from Republican congressional leaders who cited the DIA’s classified damage assessment report and asserted that Snowden’s leaks endangered the lives of US military personnel.
The documents also show that these assessment reports had really basic errors, in one report even getting the date of the first leaks wrong, dating them to June 7 rather than June 5, 2013.
Such errors ought to raise questions about the other claims from the report, such as that Snowden took 900,000 documents pertaining to DOD issues. After all, if analysts can’t even copy a public date from a newspaper correctly, how accurate are their more difficult calculations?
ISIS doesn’t have any products, but still…
In a bizarre round of comments today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu termed international boycotts against Israel as “hypocrisy,” demanding those nations to boycott ISIS-made goods instead.
ISIS doesn’t have a functioning economy right now, nor any real exports to speak of, so it is of course impossible. Netanyahu’s comments are just the latest in an increasingly desperate campaign to damage the reputation of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to pressure Israel for an end to the occupation through economic pressure. Boycotting Israel is illegal in the United States, but is increasingly popular in Europe as the Netanyahu government condemns the peace process.
The strategy to make this somewhat about ISIS is a rather awkward attempt to copy the effort to keep Israel off the list of forces that carried out attacks on children in 2014, which somehow worked on the grounds that it’d be weird to put the IDF on the same list as ISIS, even though the Israeli military did overtly attack UN-run schools full of civilian refugees in the summer Gaza War.
There is, of course, already a substantial international embargo campaign against ISIS, irrespective of its lack of theoretical exports, and it goes far beyond a handful of academic boycotts and private campaigns against Israeli companies in the occupied West Bank. It’s just that ISIS doesn’t have billionaire Sheldon Adelson bankrolling summits against the international campaign on them, so it doesn’t get the publicity the BDS movement does.
The morning after final passage of the USA Freedom Act, while some foes of mass surveillance were celebrating, Thomas Drake sounded decidedly glum. The new law, he told me, is “a new spy program.” It restarts some of the worst aspects of the Patriot Act and further codifies systematic violations of Fourth Amendment rights.
Later on Wednesday, here in Oslo as part of a “Stand Up For Truth” tour, Drake warned at a public forum that “national security” has become “the new state religion.” Meanwhile, his Twitter messages were calling the USA Freedom Act an “itty-bitty step” – and a “stop/restart kabuki shell game” that “starts w/ restarting bulk collection of phone records.”
That downbeat appraisal of the USA Freedom Act should give pause to its celebrants. Drake is a former senior executive of the National Security Agency – and a whistleblower who endured prosecution and faced decades in prison for daring to speak truthfully about NSA activities. He ran afoul of vindictive authorities because he refused to go along with the NSA’s massive surveillance program after 9/11.
Drake understands how the NSA operates from the highest strategic levels. He notes a telling fact that has gone virtually unacknowledged by anti-surveillance boosters of the USA Freedom Act: “NSA approved.” So, of course, did the top purveyor of mendacious claims about the U.S. government’s surveillance programs – President Obama – who eagerly signed the “USA Freedom” bill into law just hours after the Senate passed it.