“Khorasan Group” flap-du-jour Explained

Fox News, The National Review, and Rush Limbaugh all say The Khorasan group doesn’t exist. Most right wing commentators tell us this is further proof the Obama Administration lied, just to justify, Bush-style, the anti-ISIS air war over Iraq and Syria.

I saw a Facebook newspaper scan purporting to be from a Canadian journalist, but I couldn’t find it again when I went back to look for it. It said and suggested the same thing.

They’re pimping opinion from more respected sources.

Glen Greenwald says the media vastly over-hyped this. “Literally within a matter of days, we went from “perhaps in its final stages of planning its attack” (CNN) to “plotting as ‘aspirational’” and “there did not yet seem to be a concrete plan in the works” (NYT).”

Al Jazeera, which employs reporters who are actually very smart, says “Something about the name Khorasan, which the US says is a group of al-Qaeda veterans, doesn’t feel right.” They had contacts, whom they couldn’t name either of course, who said “Khorasan? I don’t know that name. I don’t know who they are.”

Writing for Yahoo, Kaye Foley said “It is a small network of an estimated 50 or so al-Qaida veterans who set up shop in Syria, benefiting from the cover of civil war and the protection of the Syrian al-Qaida affiliate al-Nusra Front. Although the group was brought to public attention in the past week, Attorney General Eric Holder said in an exclusive interview with Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric the U.S. has been watching Khorasan for two years.”

Even the Administration seems to be downplaying early claims US fighter planes severely crippled a “Khorasan Group” cell operating in the region. It seems a group, actually calling itself “Khorasan,” may not even exist.

What further proof do we need, you say? Ask yourself first: what do we really know?

None of the partisan news sources above have cited their sources, if they have any, or disclosed any documentation to substantiate their claims, on either side. So the attacks from the right and the antiwar left are speculative.

No one doubts that Al Qaeda has attacked the United States before and would like to try it again. We also know there are hundreds of Al Qaeda splinter groups, including ISIS. ISIS was disowned because it refused to follow orders of the Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahir, currently trying to muster the parent group.

“The Khorasan Region” may refer to an ancient historical area including Afghanistan, Iran, Turkmenistan and Pakistan, or to a military terrorist area of current interest in Syria.

If Al Qaeda is operating a secret group in the Khorasan region – “DUH” – and if national or international security agencies have identified a specific threat, and that splinter group does not have a name, “Khorasan Group” would be a logical working name for US intelligence services to specifically identify that group of interest.

Why would that secret group, if it exists, keep its identity and existence secret? – “DUH!”

But neither our security forces nor the US Administration can afford to reveal their sources without compromising intelligence “assets.” There will be no hard intelligence sources outside the intelligence community, and they cannot reveal that. I think everyone, left and right, understands that.

I conclude no civilian sources have any bona-fide hard intelligence and aren’t likely to get any. The US intelligence services and top level Administration may have it, but they’re not likely to say so.

Media hype, yes. Fox News and right-wing partisanship, yes. Any hit against Al Qaeda is a good hit. As for the rest of the hype, for the rest of us, we may never know.

800 total views, no views today

The Tangled Web: America, France and Indochina 1947-50

History Today

The Tangled Web: America, France and Indochina 1947-50

“To many, the Vietnam War defines their view of the nature of US international policy.”

 

“Kennan agreed: the United States was supporting the French in an undertaking that ‘neither they, nor we, nor both of us together can win’.”

A good short read. As a Vietnam Vet I was aware of some of this in later years. Follow this link first, then “The OSS and Ho Chi Minh” in my preceding post.

What a different world it might have been if we had applied the principles of the Marshall Plan to Indochina as well as Europe! The plan in Europe worked miracles. The plan in Indochina was a disaster from beginning to end.

1,537 total views, no views today

The OSS and Ho Chi Minh

Book by Dixee R. Bartholomew-Feis. University Press of Kansas

The OSS and Ho Chi Minh

“Some will be shocked to find out that the United States and Ho Chi Minh, our nemesis for much of the Vietnam War, were once allies. Indeed, during the last year of World War II, American spies in Indochina found themselves working closely with Ho Chi Minh …”

Good book review. An enlightening short read. We trained Uncle Ho, and the fighters that became the Viet Cong, in guerrilla warfare. The international face of American diplomacy hasn’t usually been our Secretary of State, it’s been the Pentagon. Check it out.

 

922 total views, no views today

Predator: The Slippery Slope

We are still fighting wars with tactics better suited to World War II than Afghanistan. We use tanks even though we are not in the desert fighting Rommel. We use gunships even though this may take out a whole village to take down one insurgent, and we call that “collateral damage.” We send our boys overseas for three, four, even five tours, asking them to go into those villages and figure out which handful of Afghans are combatant Taliban. In Afghanistan, our enemy are in the villages because they live there.

In Bill Cosby’s 1963 “Toss of the Coin” take on the Minutemen vs. the Redcoats, the British lose the coin toss. They’re told “you guys have to wear red coats and march in a straight line” while “we get to hide behind trees and shoot at you.” We lost the coin toss in the Mideast.

In Bill Moyers’ recent in-depth interview “Moving Beyond War”, he has a series of interesting conversations with Andrew Bacevich, “a West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran-turned-scholar who’s become one of the most perceptive observers of America’s changing role in the world.”

The following excerpt tracks that portion of their discussion in which they covered our increasing and controversial use of the Predator unmanned drone. Many Americans are asking if this tactic is moral. Does it divorce accountability from the military-political process? Perhaps, but does it save American lives? Here is the excerpt from the transcript:

ANDREW BACEVICH: I don’t think anybody today thinks that counterinsurgency is going to pacify Afghanistan.

BILL MOYERS: Why didn’t it work?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Again, one would refer to Afghan history here, that this is simply not a place that accommodates foreign invaders who think they know how to run the place better than the local population. But what I would want to emphasize, I think, is that by last year, I think Obama himself had given up on the notion that counterinsurgency provided a basis for U.S. strategy and had, indeed, begun to implement Plan C. And Plan C is targeted assassination.

Plan C is relying on drones, unmanned aerial vehicles with missiles, and also commandos, special operation forces, in order to conduct military operations, in essence on a global basis, identifying those who could pose a threat to us. And without regard to congressional authority, without regard to considerations of national sovereignty, to go kill the people we think need to be killed. Plan C is already being implemented.

BILL MOYERS: Most people seem to accept it as an alternative to failure in Afghanistan, and as a way of keeping American soldiers out of harm’s way.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, and also they accept it because of course, it doesn’t cost us anything. We are not, the people are not engaged in any serious way. The people are not asked to sacrifice. The people are asked only to applaud when we are told after the fact that an attack has succeeded.

I don’t have any easy answers to the Predator problem. I favor keeping our boys out of harm’s way. That’s why I’m also for an accelerated withdrawal from a hopeless quagmire. I do not see Afghanistan as a unified country in need of defense or capable of benefiting from it, even if they asked us to stay, which doubtless they now will not.

But we all recognize that targeted robot assassinations are a slippery slope. Yet we never resolved our differences on CIA assassinations several decades ago. At what point do assassinations become immoral?

My take on Predator’s slippery slope is that “assassination” launches should be accountable to, and only authorized by, our country’s highest elected civilian leaders, never by military field commanders – however reputable and trustworthy. This kind of target must be a high-ranking military or paramilitary individual or unit, actively engaged in military hostilities against the United States or its armed forces, or poised to do so when it is too late to stop them by conventional means. The high-profile target must be non-containable by means of timely kill-or-capture. And the target may not be a civilian head of state unless the President determines an extraordinary and imminent threat to national or global security, such as a Hitler.

I draw a sharp line between targeted assassinations and calling in a drone strike in a combat situation. If no noncombatants are killed, and American lives are saved, I’m for tactical strikes. But I still resist the idea of uncontrolled field-level deployment. I believe Congress and the Defense Department should get involved in creating light-speed control and monitoring mechanisms, and high-level field commanders should have the responsibility for approving tactical strikes and reviewing results.

Remember, the United States will not long be the only nation deploying smart unmanned aircraft systems. It would be in our own self-interest for the United States to take the lead in defining clear-cut boundaries.

Bin Laden obviously would have been an eligible Predator target (though we took him out with our miraculous Navy Seal team). But Assad most probably would not be. For that, we need the United Nations. It is perhaps too soon to tell if Russia and China have committed to cooperative global efforts to reduce global atrocities, but their new-found willingness to go along with the UN’s Mr. Annan in pressuring Syria is encouraging. And, China has greatly facilitated efforts to pressure North Korea on its nuclear weapons program.

Concerted world cooperation and containment is the anti-terrorist weapon of the future.

428 total views, no views today

The Globally Disenfranchised Vote

Arab Spring. US corporations who buy elections. Hanging chads and disproportionately disenfranchised minorities throwing presidential elections. The packing of the US Supreme Court. The congressional budget meltdown. Unsubstantiable personal attacks on TV driven by political parties and leaders gone completely out of control. Campaign charges you can’t believe even in those rare cases you’d like to. Nations of sheep who are manipulated and stampeded into predefined niches at the polling place. In our new Information Age, a deficit of trustworthy information and news resources.

According to many young, representing the arriving new generations, the whole election process has become so corrupt it can no longer be trusted to represent the people.

Here’s current New York Times reporting on the phenomenon, “As Scorn for Vote Grows, Protests Surge Around Globe” by Nicholas Kulish (September 27, 2011):

But from South Asia to the heartland of Europe and now even to Wall Street, these protesters share something else: wariness, even contempt, toward traditional politicians and the democratic political process they preside over.

They are taking to the streets, in part, because they have little faith in the ballot box.

‘Our parents are grateful because they’re voting,’ said Marta Solanas, 27, referring to older Spaniards’ decades spent under the Franco dictatorship. ‘We’re the first generation to say that voting is worthless.’

Economics have been one driving force, with growing income inequality, high unemployment and recession-driven cuts in social spending breeding widespread malaise. Alienation runs especially deep in Europe, with boycotts and strikes that, in London and Athens, erupted into violence.

But even in India and Israel, where growth remains robust, protesters say they so distrust their country’s political class and its pandering to established interest groups that they feel only an assault on the system itself can bring about real change. “

Democracy is always a flawed, messy, disorganized process, but if we don’t clean up the processes designed to serve it, we’ll end up with something infinitely worse.

341 total views, no views today

U.S. Military Role Against Khadafi

The White House take is that the US ‘can act in Libya without Congress‘ because our current role is only supportive of NATO and does not fall under the War Powers Resolution. US involvement against Khadafi has so far consisted of participating in NATO air sorties on government buildings, tanks and ground troops.

But some members of Congress now say the President exceeded his authority because he did not obtain Congressional permission.

Congress last issued a formal declaration of war in World War II. Congress never even declared an authorization for the 1950 Korean War.

Actions since then have been covered under various resolutions and acts, but without formal declaration of war. Congress authorized extended military combat in Vietnam, perhaps not anticipating US involvement from 1961 to 1975. It was at this point Congress passed the War Powers Resolution, generally limiting the President to committing US forces over 60 days without Congressional approval or declared national emergency.

History will surely note that Congress did authorize the Bush-instigated war in Afghanistan in 2001, and the almost concurrent war in Iraq in 2003.

The US action in Libya was arguably our smallest foreign intervention since we helped elbow Aristide out of Haiti in 2004. But let no one say Congressional objections to the Libyan involvement are motivated by partisan politics.

If Congress in its infinite wisdom must carp about our minimal air support of the Libyan rebels’ Arab Spring, then perhaps the complainers should introduce a bill repudiating our cooperation with NATO effort to unseat Khadafi Duck. Authorize the action, produce a formal repudiation, or get off the pot.

306 total views, no views today

Wikileaks

Wikileaks seems to have become the paparazzi of the diplomatic corps, doing for Hillary Clinton’s world what National Enquirer magazine did for Paris Hilton. I tried at first to ignore the Wikileaks media sensation. Wouldn’t you know, it won’t go away. Some gossipy tidbits are fascinating. Many are potentially embarrassing. Some threaten delicate negotiations, or diplomatic relationships that took years to build. Almost all undermine international confidence in “the system.” Most confirm what we already knew, heard or suspected. How secure were they? The money was not actually kept in bank vaults, but the front door to the bank was thought to be really, really strong. What do these Wikileaks mean, who is responsible for them, and who, ultimately, is accountable for their embarrassing disclosure?

Continue reading

518 total views, no views today

Egypt Deserves Better from U.S. Senate

A Senate resolution condemning Egypt’s record on human rights and free elections has sparked an aggressive Washington lobbying campaign by the longtime U.S. ally, which argues that the measure could harm the Middle East peace process and its relationship with the United States …

Reports of heavy-handedness under Egyptian President Mubarak are hardly news. The west has long been aware of a spotted human rights record in Egypt, which occasionally lurches outside western comfort zones into abusive security excesses long regarded here as smacking of totalitarianism. We make no apologies for these excesses here, and we cannot possibly minimize the real threats these pose to freedom and democratic process in Egypt.

How bad is it for freedom over there? Continue reading

348 total views, no views today

2COR4:6

What’s to say about a gunsight model number? Not much, unless it happens to be the code to the Christian Bible passage in chapter 4 verse 6 of Corinthians.

This hit the news yesterday. A small and very devout Michigan firm makes the gunsights, which include some of the finest military rifle scopes in the world.

And that’s the problem. These scopes are doing heavy service in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. They are being furnished to the Iraqi police force. To a culture still resentful of the Christian European Crusades back in the middle ages, the image of returning Crusaders is inescapable.
Continue reading

2,336 total views, no views today

Congratulations, America

U.S.S. Constitution

U.S.S. Constitution

Yesterday we elected Barack Obama as the 43rd president of our United States of America. It was an unprecedented election in many ways. The news is flooded with stories of excitement and hope all over the world.

As President-Elect Obama said to the nation last night in his acceptance speech, the road ahead will be long. We have a lot of work to do. We have had other presidents who took office in the middle of perilous times. Perhaps those special challenges galvanized them and the nation to decisive action; they and the nation were victorious.
Continue reading

328 total views, no views today