Essay and interviews update

Counterpunch was kind enough to publish a long essay of mine that deconstructs the myths and lies used to continuously propel the war forward in Afghanistan. The essay utilizes US government, UN and major media sources, as well as many of my experiences, to argue for peace in Afghanistan. I am very happy with the reception this essay has received, most especially honored by its translation into Dari and Pashto by Afghan friends.

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/02/15/time-for-peace-in-afghanistan-and-an-end-to-the-lies/

In the last few months I have done several interviews.

This interview with The Real News Network on Afghanistan. I have pasted below the transcript for this interview as I comment a good deal on overall US military war strategy across the Muslim world.

An interview with comedian Lee Camp about Veterans For Peace:

And this interview last week with Telesur English about Venezuela:

Transcript from The Real News Network (11/30/18):

MARC STEINER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Marc Steiner. Great to have you with us today.

Seventeen years ago, the war started in Afghanistan. Seems like this is a war with no end. I remember interviewing Hamid Karzai as he was hiding in a cave just crossing the border back into Afghanistan. So many thought it was just, a war that we needed; it was a just war because Americans were revenging the 3000 deaths of 9/11. But doing so completely unaware of why the Taliban was in power in the first place, and how the United States was complicit in their coming to power in many ways, and in creating the likes of, yes, bin Laden.

Now, this week three Americans were killed, more in one day than any time this year. In retaliation, American and allied forces bombed a village they said was Taliban controlled. And later, when they learned that 30 civilians were killed, said they didn’t realize civilians were living there. Among the dead were 16 children. Then a British office was bombed in retaliation, and others were killed, one Brit and five Afghans. The UN reported that the number of civilian casualties from air attacks was higher in the first nine months of this year than any year since 2009.

It’s been a year since the Trump buildup of forces to Afghanistan and more money being spent. So what are we actually fighting for? What Is this war about? When will it end? How do we know where this war is taking us? These are questions many people are to ask themselves. The war’s cost 105,000 Afghan deaths, 7,000 American lives, hundreds of thousands wounded, and even more affected by the war. All this and the Taliban’s still strong enough to be on the verge of seizing power.

To help us wade through the latest news and what lies ahead is Matthew Hoh. A senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, former director of the Afghan Study Group, who was a Marine Corps officer in the Iraq war. And he 2009 he publicly resigned his position in the State Department in Afghanistan in opposition to the escalation of that war then, in 2009. He’s also a member of Veterans for Peace. And Matthew, welcome. Good to have you with us.

MATTHEW HOH: Hi, Marc. Thank you for having me on.

MARC STEINER: So I’m just curious about your reaction to the latest series of events, to start with, what’s at the top of the news. The killing of the American soldiers, the death of American soldiers, the retaliation to the bombing that killed 30 civilians, 16 children; then the next attack that took place at a British office. So I mean, every time we hear this news it seems like greater escalation, more deaths. What was your initial reaction to all this?

MATTHEW HOH: Well it’s the cycle of violence. I mean, this is, this is what’s occurred there in Afghanistan, not since 9/11, but since the 1970s. Something, as you mentioned in your introduction, we’ve been complicit in. I mean, we were–the United States–was funding the Mujahideen in Afghanistan prior to the Soviet Union invading Afghanistan. I mean, this has been going on for nearly 40 years now. And it is, it is a tragedy. It’s immense suffering. The numbers of casualties are undercounted. When an airstrike occurs like what we saw this week in Helmand and kills 30 people, we are aware of it. But smaller airstrikes, I could tell you this from my experience being there, smaller airstrikes, or airstrikes where the locals don’t alert the media, or the Afghan government doesn’t alert the media, go underreported, or undercounted.

So the idea that this is the most amount of civilians killed by air strikes since ’09 is certainly true. But I would hesitate to believe that that’s the actual number. The number is probably a much greater. And you see with this war a continual pattern, a continual pattern now of talks, a continual pattern of money and foreign troops being put into Afghanistan, a continual escalation of the war by the West and the Afghan government. And, of course, the response by the insurgency, most prominent among them what we call the Taliban, in a complete [an] appropriate response. Again, you’re in a cycle of violence here that, unless it’s broken–and when I mean broken, I mean the funding is cut off, the support is cut off for all parties so that the violence simply can’t occur anymore–it’s just going to continue to go on.

So we’re all kidding ourselves if we’re thinking that these talks, like this five-year plan which is the latest thing that’s coming out the Afghan government, peace will come in five years, we’re kidding ourselves if we think that’s going to make any real difference for the lives of the Afghan people.

MARC STEINER: This is a slight digression. I’m very curious, as you were speaking about this. I mean, so whether you were in Vietnam, whether you were in Afghanistan or Iraq, if you are a soldier fighting or whether you are a civilian working in that war, you get jaundiced pretty quickly about what’s going on around you. So the question is, I’m curious, from your time both as a soldier in Iraq–as a Marine, excuse me. Don’t want to insult you. [crosstalk]

MATTHEW HOH: I don’t, I’m not the guy that does the whole [inaudible]. I can’t do nearly the number of pullups I used to be able to do. I don’t [inaudible] get too concerned if people don’t get the right title.

MARC STEINER: OK, just checking. Just–I know how it is. But given your time in Afghanistan working with the State Department, I’m curious what is the tenor of the men and women working there, working on the, in the American sphere, about what we’re doing, what we’re really accomplishing, or not. And how you have to hide the reality from yourself, almost, to continue the work that you’re doing.

MATTHEW HOH: Yeah. I mean, I can–one thing I can tell you is that it has been nine years since I publicly resigned, and it was on the front page of the Washington Post, the Today Show, and everything. So it wasn’t–my resignation was pretty prominent. And you know, no reason of my own, really Forrest Gumped myself into that. But in the last nine years, the number of negative responses I’ve received from service members who are folks who served in Afghanistan I can count on my one hand. I have received hundreds, if not thousands, of positive responses from men and women who have been with the military, or with our civilian agencies in Afghanistan.

What you’re seeing is within the military, guys get the golden handcuffs. They get locked into their careers. They get locked into the fact that pay and benefits and everything in the military is pretty good right now. They get into the notion that I’m a professional soldier, or a professional Marine, or sailor, or airman. And so I don’t make the policy, I just enforce it. A lot of us would say, hey, that’s … You’re surrendering your soul and your conscience that way. So this zombie-like adherence to what’s occurring there, and looking for excuses, looking for ways to lie to yourself, looking for other metrics to determine whether or not what you’re doing is successful. I took my Marines to Iraq, or I took my Marines to Afghanistan, and only a couple were killed, or none were killed, or only a few were wounded, or–you know, trying to find ways to justify your actions. And that’s certainly what I did. I went three times to war, twice for Iraq and in Afghanistan. And it was–you become numb to that.

But when you get to a position, I think, where you’ve seen the realities of the policymaking, you’ve seen the realities of what we’re doing there, you’ve seen both conflicts–in my case both Iraq and Afghanistan–you see that neither is different. The only thing that matters is that the U.S. is occupying both countries. You’re going to have the same outcomes. In my case, where in Afghanistan I was meeting with the interlocutors, or actually Taliban themselves, and reporting back to the embassy and being told we’re not interested in negotiating, we’re not interested in finding peace, we’re interested in victory, we’re interested in winning, you realize, like, well, I can no longer go home and meet somebody who lost a son or a husband in these wars and tell them it was worthwhile. At the same time too, you see enough dead children, you see enough dead kids, you see enough grieving women in these countries, many of it from our actions, and you start to break, as I was doing.

So part of it is the constant cycling of people into Iraq and Afghanistan, or into Syria, into into these positions, so that they’re coming back out and then going back in, they’re not continuously getting burned out or overwhelmed by it. But it is a question, because–and I think now you start to get into issues of like, why did we get rid of the draft? We have not seen anything like what we saw in Vietnam, where by the early ’70s the U.S. Army, in particular, was completely broken. Where the U.S. Army was experiencing mutinies nearly every week, where units were refusing to fight. By the Army’s own estimate, a quarter of its officers who were killed in Vietnam were killed by their own soldiers. And that’s a conservative estimate. I mean, so we have seen nothing like that in these wars. And that’s, that’s, part of it is why they created this volunteer army, or in many ways like a mercenary army.

MARC STEINER: So–I’m sorry, go ahead. Americans are deeply disconnected from this war. It is very different in Vietnam, or even–especially World War II. People are disconnected because people don’t have a, aren’t in this fight personally at any level, for the most part, in this country.

So the question becomes if we are now in this war that is being escalated by the Trump administration, where more people are being killed then were in the previous years, and in the last years, here, of Obama–not saying it was great under Obama, but nonetheless was of Obama. And I just spoke just the other day with people who had just come back from Helmand province who were saying that, you know, the Taliban is in complete control of the rural areas. You cannot go out at night. Even in the cities you can’t go out at night. So if that’s the case, I mean, what is the endgame here? I mean, how do you get out of this war? How do you stop it? And if the Taliban is really that strong, and you know, for years you’ve seen people some people in the Karzai government and others were trying to negotiate with what they call the good Taliban, to try make some peace, headway. And the Americans didn’t like–kind of opposed them doing that, as well. So in any sense, what is the endgame here? I mean, what–how do you see it?

MATTHEW HOH: The Trump administration has brought about a new era in U.S. foreign policy and U.S. militarism. The Trump administration is different than the Bush and Obama administrations. While both Bush and Obama with the wars in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, were completely wrong-headed, criminal, they honestly thought they could find a way out. They honestly thought that they could bring about some type of political change. They believed that with elections, by building schools and healthcare centers, that we could bring about a change in political structure in these countries that favored the United States.

You have to understand, this is something that goes back decades now. I won’t get into prior to World War II, but certainly we had our imperial ambitions, right, for in this country before World War II. Simply ask the Native Americans, ask Hawaiians, ask Filipinos, et cetera. But after World War II what you see is the United States gets put in this position that is summarized best by George Kennan, who was the American diplomat who came up with the containment strategy of the Soviet Union. So a famed American diplomat. In 1948 he says, you know, he says, the United States now has 50 percent, more than 50 percent of the world’s wealth. We’re only 6 percent the world’s population. That’s a disparity that’s going to prove really hard to keep. But it’s our purpose to keep that disparity, and we have to do whatever it takes.

And from that point, I mean, you can trace when he says that to seeing what we did in Italy and Greece, right into Korea, into Vietnam. The dictatorships we supported in Indonesia, the Philippines, what we did in South America, and especially what we’ve done in the Middle East. Now, the idea of the Bush and Obama administration was that somehow we would do these military actions that would bring about political change in these countries that would make Iraq be the same color on the map that the United States is, right. It’s like this is one big game of Risk, basically. Or Afghanistan was going to be the same color as the United States.

Under the Trump administration, because I really believe of the significant influence that the generals like General Mattis and General Kelly, who are the secretary of defense and White House chief of staff, as well as other officials and other theorists who have gone into this Trump administration, you have a Trump administration that doesn’t see any purpose in trying to have such political change in these countries to create a new political order. What they believe is that you can just subjugate, and that’s the best way to go about it. You’ve tried elections, you’ve tried building healthcare centers, you tried building schools, you’ve tried to win hearts and minds. It didn’t work. So what we do is basically we subjugate those parts of those countries, and in this way keep our proxies in power.

So we’ve seen that. We’ve seen that already, say, like in Iraq, where rather than trying to do any type of political change with the Sunnis, we basically backed Shia armies and Kurdish armies with massive airpower, flattened every Sunni city in Iraq. I mean, the cities along the Euphrates and Tigris river valleys are completely flattened. Tens and tens of thousands killed; tens and tens of thousands are still missing. Millions displaced. And that’s the way they’re going to do it from now on. So basically–yeah.

MARC STEINER: I’m curious about–so what you’re describing here, though, as we conclude, just describing here is a strategy in the Trump administration that in some ways, even though the other strategies have been wrong-headed, flawed, and this war is insanely wrong. But this is–we’re escalating in a dangerous new way, here, in which rather than finding a way to pull out and end it, we’re actually escalating this in a way that is detrimental to Afghanistan and to us.

MATTHEW HOH: Yes, exactly. And this is what you expect from a cycle of violence, right. Cycles of violence continue to escalate. We engage in these wars in the Middle East, we occupy these countries. We tried by using religious sects against one another, by using ethnicities against one another. You’re seeing that right now in Afghanistan, the ethnic splits really occurring, with the Taliban attacking the Hazara minority. And this is this goes back–again, this goes back 40-some odd years. That goes back to Zbigniew Brzezinski’s ideas in the Carter administration to use ethnic and religious differences in the Soviet Union, particularly in Central Asia, to light the Soviet Union afire; to cause them problems, right.

So this is why it’s important that we don’t talk about Afghanistan in the sense that it began on 9/11, because this goes back decades. And what we’re seeing right now is the culmination of this type of imperial militarist policies that have by necessity morphed into–look, if you’re looking to see how Secretary Mattis talks about himself, he speaks of himself as if he’s like a legionnaire. He speaks about defending the republic. He describes the United States as being the apex of civilization. Basically, the idea that they are defending the United States and other parts of the empire, Europe and such, against the barbarians, and that we’re always going to be fighting in these borderlands, basically. And you’re going to look and you see John Kelly, the chief of staff of the White House, he said the same types of things.

And so that’s what you’re seeing with this Trump administration, basically. Subjugate those who won’t fall in line. Keep in power our proxies. Use other proxies. So that’s why you’re, that’s why this year you’ve only seen 12 Americans killed in Afghanistan. We’ve killed more Afghans than any other year since 2009. But we’ve only lost 12 Americans. That keeps it out of the papers, right. That keeps it off of CNN. You know, so let the Afghans kill the Afghans. Use the ethnic differences to really help subjugate one another. Use the Shia and Kurds to keep the Sunnis in line in Iraq. Use the Sunni Saudis and UAE forces to keep control in Yemen. So on and so on.

And so where this goes to–my God. I mean, it leads towards genocide. It leads to displacement, and it leads to further horrors and suffering that, you know, many people have been saying all along will be the consequences of this.

MARC STEINER: So very quickly here, as we conclude now. But I want to go back to where we began and just ask you, when the Americans and allied forces said they did not know there were civilians in this Taliban village, the Taliban-controlled village that they bombed in retaliation for the killing of the Americans, how real is that? I mean, how do you not know that where the Taliban are, civilians–you know, it’s the same stuff in Vietnam.

MATTHEW HOH: Yeah. As a guy–as a guy who did this, as a guy who was part of that stuff, as a guy who had Top Secret clearances, who took part in ground combat, who was involved–I’ve been involved in all kinds of levels. I was in the Secretary of the Navy’s office. Am I allowed to say–it was complete fucking bullshit. Can I say that on The Real News? I mean, like-

MARC STEINER: That describes it succinctly.

MATTHEW HOH: That’s bullshit. How can you not know–that, that’s like bombing a house in the United States and saying you didn’t know that there’d be a family in there. I mean, it’s complete bullshit. It’s complete nonsense. It’s–and what you do–this is what’s interesting. Last year, when the journalist Anand Gopal, and I’m blanking on who his counterpart was, they went into Iraq and they found that the United States was, by a factor of like 37 or 38, miscounting the numbers of civilians that were killed. Basically underreporting civilian deaths in the thousands. And then you look and you see what these Air Force general or Army generals say about it. And what it is, though, is that they basically are able to lie to themselves. And what it comes down to is if all the sources–if your sources in the military, if your intelligence people say they weren’t killed, if your pilots didn’t see them killed, if what the regulations say–if that’s, if that’s what–that’s what’s going. If that’s what it is, then they weren’t killed. That’s how they’re still able to lie to themselves so callously, so cruelly. How they were able to murder these people. And our generals shrug and say, well, now, that’s not the case. Because we didn’t–you know, our people said it didn’t happen. So it’s not the case.

You develop a mentality–it’s a sickness, really. But to be able to have that kind of dissonance with reality … yeah. And these generals who are in charge now, they were junior officers when this war began. So they’ve been brought up on-.

MARC STEINER: On this war.

MATTHEW HOH: Just decades now of lying. And getting away with it. And being promoted because they lie, or lied.

MARC STEINER: That’s an interesting perspective. I never thought about that before.

Matthew Hoh, this has been a pleasure to talk with you. I look forward to doing many more conversations. Thank you for the work, and thank you for standing up.

MATTHEW HOH: Thank you, Marc. Appreciate it.

MARC STEINER: We were talking to Matthew Hoh, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, and a Marine Corps veteran of the wars that we seem to be stuck in. And I’m Marc Steiner here for The Real News Network. Thank you so much for joining us. Take care.

2 minutes to Midnight

I’ve linked to an important article below. For the past decade generals and admirals have been speaking about usable nuclear weapons. We now have them.

Along with the new W-76 warhead which the article discusses, we also have B-61 air dropped nuclear bombs that have low yield warheads.

What this article leaves out, and what makes this issue more important and scarier, is that the W-76, which are carried on our subs, were refitted a few years ago with a new superfuze, making them as accurate as the land based W88 warheads – meaning they can be used against Russia and Chinese missile silos and command and control centers.

US submarines can now launch accurate first strike attacks with the lower payload warhead. Attacks from submarines would only take 10 or 15 minutes in total, Russia and China would have nearly no time to react. So the US has the ability now to destroy Russia or China’s land based nuclear missile fleet with the US submarine force, which would leave the US land and air based nuclear force intact. With their land based nuclear forces destroyed Russia or China would be forced to rely on launching a retaliatory attack from their submarines with warheads that are less accurate and have a high yield, meaning US cities and populations centers would be destroyed and effected. These attacks would not be able to destroy the US land based missile force, at least with any certainty, and the Russians and Chinese would fear additional retaliation from the US land based ICBMs ensuring destruction of their societies. The Russians and Chinese now have to seriously consider their position and, potentially, give up their no first use doctrine. The US does not and never had a no first use policy.

This is very dangerous.

This is incredibly dangerous.

https://consortiumnews.com/2019/02/14/the-most-dangerous-weapon-ever-rolls-off-the-nuclear-assembly-line/

The colors on the map…

An important read is attached to help understand the structure of decision making in Washington, DC; decision making that has killed millions overseas and destroyed entire nations in the Middle East.

When interviewed about such things, I’ve often described the maturity of national security decision making to nothing more than a game of Risk. Whether it be Republican or Democratic administrations the purposes of the policies enacted, murderous and barbarous when realized in person, are nothing more than to make the countries on a map the same color as the US and its allies. So, as in the case described by Lazare in the attached essay, to make Syria blue, to dis-align it from Iran (or Russia as is argued today), is the purpose in itself, it is the end that justifies all those bloody means.

Lazare’s essay is incredibly instructive and the cited memo, written by James Rubin to Hilary Clinton in April 2012, shows such thinking and decision making in its actual form. This is the true embodiment of what leads to 500,000 dead in Syria, 1 million dead in Iraq, unknown numbers of dead in Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan and throughout Africa. For my friends who still are in the military or government, or for their families, this is what has destroyed so many lives not just abroad, but also here at home – how many of us have followed such vainglorious and cavalier leadership and how many of us now know the true costs of such “service”? How many still go along with thoughts that the leadership of these wars might get better, the realities and circumstances of the wars may change, or that the professionalism of military, foreign or civil service absolves the necessity of understanding clearly, and acknowledging, the masters being served.

The first paragraph of Rubin’s memo to Clinton lays plain the convoluted, arrogant and ignorant thinking of those in DC power: “The best way to help Israel deal with Iran’s growing nuclear capability is to help the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad.”

From this opening Rubin lays down rationale that makes sense only when understood in what Washington, DC national security elites and their politician benefactors believe to be tangible goals; goals as have been passed onto them by previous generations and goals that are as if dreamt up by international relations graduate students in Kissinger-esque fever dreams. Goals that prove ephemeral in outcomes which can be controlled and are nearly always, inevitably, hopeless and damned for those upon who they bear.

Evidence of this simple, yet absurd, thought has been common throughout the war in Syria, for example see Michael Vickers’ Washington Post op-Ed in August 2017 https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-trump-administration-should-not-give-up-on-removing-assad-in-syria/2017/07/23/a7073878-6d59-11e7-96ab-5f38140b38cc_story.html?utm_term=.6255bc9ca7e5

or the examples laid out in Lazare’s essay. Similar clear and inculpatory evidence is also easily and readily available for our wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen etc.

In moments as of now I am reminded of Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” dictum of not to give our lives to brutes or to those machine men with their machine minds….I did so for a long time, such a regret and a shame I’ll never get past. What I can do, and how can I not, is to offer what I know, not just from study and observation, but from my years at multiple levels of military, government and congressional roles.

The importance now is to pass on this information, to educate in order to embolden our society and population to the whims and fantasies of such men and women as Rubin and Clinton. For now we have the most malleable and mercurial President we have had in modern memory (and maybe in our country’s total existence) and I can tell you with great certainty that more wars will occur and that the simplemindedness and arrogance shown by Rubin and Clinton extends to both sides of the political aisle. It is only a matter of time until nuclear weapons will be cast into fiery apocalyptic use, bringing forth our demise as a species along with this beautiful planet, just to preserve or improve the color shadings of the map in the heads of the ruling neoconservatives or liberal interventionists.

https://consortiumnews.com/2019/01/13/the-memo-that-helped-kill-a-half-million-people-in-syria/

Tulsi Gabbard’s 2020 run

I am very excited #TulsiGabbard has announced her run for #2020. Tulsi Gabbard is arguably the strongest progressive that has run in modern memory – Dennis Kucinich is another that comes to mind.

Her anti-war and anti-militarism stances will be a very welcome addition to the Democratic primaries, as will her domestic polices.

She’s not the Green or the Socialist I want, but politics is the art of the possible and I believe a strong and prominent run by Gabbard will educate a large part of our population to what is possible for our society and world and possibly pull the Democratic Party platform towards something resembling the platform of FDR or Henry Wallace.

If Gabbard is shut out by the governing corporate interests of the Democratic Party my hope is that will cause a stronger multi party system, or at least something more democratic than the corrupt and fraudulent two party system we have now.

As has been said so well by others, we can neither fetishize or reject our elections and voting. Only strong and direct action against the government will stop our wars, save the planet and bring about a just and equitable society. However, rejecting outright the politics of now leads us no where. There are many calls for an overthrow of the system, something I am in favor of, however that overthrow must come peaceably and nonviolently – I have taken part in the violent change and administration of revolutionary democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan and with the greatest certainty I can tell you that only the naive believe that violence helps anyone but the powerful and wealthy – it is always the weak, the poor, the voiceless that suffer and suffer horribly.

We must find leaders for the political moment – like Tulsi Gabbard – while continuing to advance with great nonviolent force ideas, principles and actions that will bring about the radical change we need to survive what the present political system provides.E1DA5683-DA3B-4BDF-8F6D-B3E78074447B.jpeg357ec25d-17b7-486d-9ce5-96e3a634b76b

Asylum for Julian Assange

I was very pleased and proud to be included on this call for asylum for Julian Assange by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS – I am an associate member).

VIPS Plead for Humanitarian Asylum for Julian Assange

Memorandum for: The US Embassies of Ecuador and the United Kingdom, and the U.S. State Department

From: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

Subject: Humanitarian Asylum for Julian Assange

For six years, WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange has been effectively imprisoned without charges at Ecuador’s London embassy. In that time, two international courts and dozens of respected legal and human rights organizations have decried actions of the UK, US and Swedish governments that confine the journalist in what now amounts to torturous isolation, deprived of space, sunlight, visitors, communication with the outside and necessary medical care.

The catalyst was an arcane effort by the Swedish government to extradite Assange for questioning about claims of sexual improprieties.1 The UK government subsequently arrested Assange and released him on bail.2 Ecuador granted Assange asylum at its embassy based on concerns he could be extradited to the US where he would not receive a fair trial and could receive a death sentence.3 (Former Obama DOJ spokesperson Matthew Miller has acknowledged that US officials intended to arrest Julian Assange but decided against it because of the expected impacts on press freedom.)4

The UK government threatens to arrest Assange if he leaves the embassy for “not surrendering at bail” and refuses to rule out extradition to the US.5 Under a new president, Ecuador has cut off Assange’s communications with the outside world.

Experts Criticize Treatment of Assange

In June, 2014, The National Lawyers Guild and 59 human rights and legal organizations petitioned the United Nations to act on violations of Assange’s “fundamental human rights.” In addition, “33 union, human rights, media and civil society organizations” petitioned the Human Rights Commission in Geneva on behalf of freedom for Assange. Reports submitted by the groups identified “numerous systematic deficiencies in Swedish pre-trial procedures like the routine placement of persons who have not been charged with any crime in indefinite, isolated, or unexplained pre-charge detention.”6

In February 2016, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) concluded that Assange’s situation constitutes “arbitrary detention” and violates both the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.7 Assange’s Swedish lawyer, Per Samuelson, told The Guardian, 4 Feb 2016, “If he is regarded as detained, that means he has served his time, so I see no other option for Sweden but to close the case.”8

Another year would pass, however, before Sweden dropped its investigation, after finally consenting to interview Assange at the embassy.9 Recently obtained emails show that Sweden would have dropped the case years earlier but for pressure from UK authorities.10 In summary, Assange has been confined for six years over allegations that never resulted in charges, much less a criminal conviction.

On July 12, 2018, the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) sent out a ruling11 that was virtually unnoticed by US news media. The IACHR found “it is the duty of nations to allow for the passage of successful asylum seekers from embassies to the mainland territory of the state that has granted an individual asylum.”

For Julian Assange, this would mean that, according to the Court’s decision, Britain has a legal obligation to allow Julian Assange to exit the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in peace and allow for his safe transit to an airport from which he would be able to fly to Ecuador, the country that has granted Assange asylum and where he now also holds formal citizenship12

“[I]t is imperative,” the ruling states, “that Assange is allowed to make the safe passage to Ecuador demanded by the Court as his physical and mental health conditions have been described as deteriorating rapidly. If, nevertheless, UK authorities insist on arresting Assange, “the British government will have wantonly failed to uphold Assange’s rights as a legitimate receiver of asylum by Ecuador.”13

The IACHR ruling suggests further that outright abuses occurred when Ecuador removed security assigned for Assange;14 when the UK rejected Ecuador’s request for safe passage of Assange to Ecuador15; and when the US obstructed efforts to end Assange’s virtual imprisonment.16

Mistaken Assumptions Underlie Government Policies

President Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions hinted at a crackdown on the press.17 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Wikileaks a “non-state, hostile intelligence service” that is often “abetted by state actors like Russia.”18 Pompeo laments the “hero worship” of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and suggests harsh measures would prevent future “leaks” of classified information. But, it is government persecution, not the lack of it, that gives truth-tellers hero status. Also, what truly upsets senior intelligence officials is not (frequently condoned) “leaking” but blowing the whistle on government wrongdoing.

Harsh measures do not deter individuals with strong moral convictions from whistleblowing. Instead, these motivate potential whistleblowers to find more creative avenues for disclosure. Edward Snowden, for example, was well aware of the US government’s brutality toward Thomas Drake, who used “official channels” to express concerns about the legality of NSA surveillance activities. Drake’s experience, Snowden says, were his inspiration. “It’s fair to say,” Snowden said, “if there hadn’t been a Thomas Drake, there couldn’t have been an Edward Snowden.”19

Similarly, despite the bullying of Julian Assange, new websites have appeared that draw inspiration from WikiLeaks.20Should the US take custody of Assange and prosecute him like Drake, they could find success elusive in the opinion of Harvard Law professor Jack Goldsmith.

“The most relevant law, the Espionage Act, is famously overbroad and thus an uncertain basis for prosecution,” observed Goldsmith. “This is one reason the government has never successfully prosecuted a member of the media for soliciting or publishing classified information. Nor has the government ever successfully prosecuted a non-media organization for solicitation or receipt of classified information.”21

“Failing in the effort would make the United States look even more ineffectual than it does as a result of the leaks,” Goldsmith concluded.

A successful prosecution could have worse consequences. With little that distinguishes Wikileaks’ activities from those of mainstream news gatherers22, a dangerous legal precedent would be established. Journalists employed by major newspapers that also published government secrets, including some of the same secrets published by Wikileaks, could be imprisoned by any administration with animosity toward the press. The impacts of prosecuting Assange would ripple around the world as officials in other governments followed the most powerful nation’s example. With no means of holding governments accountable, despotism would proliferate, triggering cascading crises and worldwide disruption.

UN human rights expert Alfred de Zayas observes that “Order depends on the consistent and uniform application of international law.”23

Governments could simply ignore the court directives on Assange’s asylum rights; but that too carries risks, undermining efforts by those countries to support dissidents of their choosing. Potentially, in the future, the diplomatic privileges of UK, US and Ecuadorian diplomats could also come under assault.

A Fork in the Road

Collectively, the governments of Sweden, the UK, the US, Ecuador (recently) and, through its silence, Assange’s home country of Australia have imposed six years of suffering on Assange and possibly life-long damage to his health. With their proxies, they pound Assange with threats, ad hominem attacks and misleading statements. He cannot defend himself because the government of Ecuador terminated his access to communications systems. This may have a temporary effect of confusing the public; but as more legal experts and human rights authorities hazard coming to his defense, the public may recognize these assaults as the desperate flailings of governments that lack credible defenses for their actions.

Public dissatisfaction with governments worldwide is currently high, as evidenced by numerous massive street protests, passages of referendums against centralized power, and wide-spread elections of anti-establishment candidates. Any additional erosion of public support risks a tipping point with unforeseeable consequences. Brutality against Julian Assange, particularly as his health declines, can only increase his stature as a journalist, enshrine his popular global status as a martyr for freedom, and effectively undermine support for his persecutors.

The involved governments have arrived at a fork in the road. They can continue the persecution of Assange, risking catastrophe for diminishing returns. Or, they can let Assange proceed to Ecuador, or home to Australia if it provides suitable guarantees,24 and boost their public standing as self-described supporters of human rights, the rule of law, and a free press.

We the undersigned members of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity urge all governments to honor the OHCHR and IACHR directives with respect to Julian Assange and other asylum seekers.

For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

William Binney, Technical Director, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center (ret.)

Richard H. Black, Senator of Virginia, 13th District; Colonel US Army (ret.); Former Chief, Criminal Law Division, Office of the Judge Advocate General, the Pentagon (associate VIPS)

Marshall Carter-Tripp, Foreign Service Officer (ret.) and Division Director, State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research

Bogdan Dzakovic,  former Team Leader of Federal Air Marshals and Red Team, FAA Security (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)

Mike Gravel, former Adjutant, top secret control officer, Communications Intelligence  Service; special agent of the Counter Intelligence Corps and former United States Senator

  Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer, Afghanistan (associate VIPS)

Larry C. Johnson, former CIA and State Department Counter Terrorism officer.

Michael S. Kearns, Captain, USAF (ret); Wing Commander, RAAF (ret); Intelligence Officer and Master SERE Instructor

John Kiriakou, Former CIA Counterterrorism Officer and former senior investigator, Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Karen Kwiatkowski, former Lt. Col., US Air Force (ret.), at Office of Secretary of Defense watching the manufacture of lies on Iraq, 2001-2003?

Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Edward Loomis, NSA, Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)

Ray McGovern, former US Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Near East, CIA and National Intelligence Council (ret.)

Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)

Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel (ret.)

Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA

Sarah G. Wilton, Intelligence Officer, DIA (ret.); Commander, US Naval Reserve (ret.)

Robert Wing, former Foreign Service Officer (associate VIPS)

Ann Wright, Col., US Army (ret.); Foreign Service Officer (resigned)

Endnotes

1 Marchand & Schaus. European Court of Human Rights. 2016. http://www.ecchr.eu Accessed 2 Aug 2018.

2 BBC News. “Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy: Timeline.” 30 Jul 2018. http://www.bbc.com Accessed 2 Aug 2018.

3 Wallace, Arturo. “Julian Assange: Why Ecuador is offering asylum.” BBC News, 16 Aug 2012.

4 Greenberg, Andy. “The US Charging Julian Assange Could Put Press Freedom on Trial.” Wired, 20 Apr 2017.

5 The Telegraph. “Arrest warrant for Julian Assange still valid.” 6 Feb 2018

6 National Lawyers Guild. “NLG and Nearly 60 International Organizations Urge UN to Remedy Human Rights Violations in Pre-Charge Detention of Julian Assange.” 19 Jun 2014

7 United Nations. UN News, 5 Feb 2016.

8 Addley, Bowcott, Elgot, Farrell & Crouch. “Julian Assange is in arbitrary detention, UN panel finds.”

The Guardian. 4 Feb 2016

9 BBC News. “Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy: Timeline.” 30 Jul 2018. http://www.bbc.com Accessed 2 Aug 2018.

10 Bowcott & MacAskill.“Sweden tried to drop Assange extradition in 2013, CPS emails show.” The Guardian,11 Feb 2018.

11 Inter-American Court of Human Right. “Advisory Opinion on the institution of asylum and its recognition as a human right in the inter-american system of protection.” [press release] 12 Jul 2018. http://www.corteidh.or.cr/docs/comunicados/cp_28_18_eng.pdf

12 Garrie, Adam. “Julian Assange Scores Major Legal Victory as Court Orders Safe Passage of Wikileaks Founder Out of Embassy.” EurasiaFuture, 13 Jul 2018.

13 Ibid.

14 “Ecuador orders withdrawal of extra Assange security from embassy in London.” Reuters, 7 May 2018

15 Saul, Heather. “Julian Assange: British Government denies Ecuadorian request for ‘safe passage’ to get Wikileaks founder to a hospital.” The Independent, 15 Oct 2015.

16 Solomon, John. “How Comey Intervened To Kill Wikileaks’ Immunity Deal.” The Hill, 25 Jun 2018.

17 Ainsley, Julia Edwards. “Trump administration goes on attack against leakers, journalists.” Reuters. 4 Aug 2017

18 Milman, Oliver. “Trump CIA director blames ‘worship of Edward Snowden’ for rise in leaks.” The Guardian, 24 June 2017.

19 AJ Plus. “Exclusive: Edward Snowden on the man who inspired his work.” (video) 5 Aug 2015.

20 Reitman, Rainey. “Will the rise of WikiLeaks competitors make whistleblowing resistant to censorship?” Electronic Frontier Foundation. 6 Feb 2011.

21 Goldsmith, Jack. “Why the U.S. shouldn’t try Julian Assange.” Washington Post, 11 Feb 2011.

22 ”Quite simply, our motive is identical to that claimed by the New York Times and The Post — to publish newsworthy content,” Assange wrote in a recent op-ed in The Washington Post. “Consistent with the U.S. Constitution, we publish material that we can confirm to be true irrespective of whether sources came by that truth legally or have the right to release it to the media. And we strive to mitigate legitimate concerns, for example by using redaction to protect the identities of at-risk intelligence agents” (CNN, 21 May 2017).

23 UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. “UN rights expert urges the UK and Sweden to give good example to the world and implement the Assange ruling.” 15 Feb 2016. Retrieved on 1 Aug 2018 from http://www.ohchr.org.

24 Murdock, Jason. WikiLeaks: Australia has ‘obligation’ to protect Julian Assange, Lawyer says.” Newsweek. 1 Aug 2018.

Impeach the President for War-Making: Support H. Res. 922

Update: You can quickly and easily send a letter asking your representative in the House to support H. Res 922 by visiting The Action Network. Please do so, it will help.

Impeaching the President for starting wars without the consent of Congress is the central tenet of House Resolution 922, which is co-sponsored by Representatives Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Walter Jones (R-NC).

I am very privileged to help introduce H. Res. 922 this Wednesday, July 18, along with Representatives Gabbard and Jones, and constitutional law expert Bruce Fein, at the US Capitol (11am, House Triangle). H. Res. 922 defines presidential wars not declared by Congress, to includes wars of co-belligerancy, such as the United States role in the atrocities in Yemen, as impeachable offenses.

H. Res. 922 provides a framework for the House of Representatives to assert its duty and responsibility in US war-making, as obligated by the US Constitution, by providing definitions and context to Article I, section 8, clause 11 of the Constitution (the declare war clause), as well as labeling presidential indifference to, neglect of and subversion against Congress’ role, and by extension the public’s will, in war-making “a high crime and misdemeanor”. This latter purpose of H. Res. 922 provides the justification for impeachment of a president for war-making, which, regardless of political party, has proven to be a constant, murderous and unchecked facet of our imperial presidents.

Will H. Res. 922 directly end war? No. However, it is an extremely valuable and non-partisan effort to put a check on current imperial presidential powers and to demonstrate a desire for accountability for the daily and unending madness and cruelty of US wars. H. Res. 922 should be viewed as part of a larger and broader campaign to end the wars we wage both abroad and at home (and if you don’t understand how the wars overseas are directly tied into the wars here at home, then please read how the US military is prepared to jail 20,000 children on US soil). Such a campaign necessarily requires legislative and political efforts, but must also include direct action, resistance, education and alternatives to the yearly one trillion dollar military-industrial complex.

Whatever assistance you and your organizations can provide in support of this resolution will be extremely helpful. Please share widely this announcement with your friends, family, organizations, networks, readers, listeners, followers, etc, and please also directly contact your representatives in the House and ask them to co-sponsor H. Res. 922.

All press are welcome on Wednesday and press inquiries can be directed to Allison Tucker in Congressman Jone’s office (202-225-3415) and Lauren McIlvaine in Congresswoman Gabbard’s office (202-225-4906). I have pasted below the text of the resolution.

Wage Peace.

115th CONGRESS

2d Session

H. RES. 922

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

June 6, 2018

(for himself and Ms. Gabbard) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

RESOLUTION

Defining presidential wars not declared by Congress under Article I, section 8, clause 11 (Declare War Clause) as impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors within the meaning of Article II, section 4 of the Constitution and defining the meanings of war and cobelligerency for purposes of the Declare War Clause and Impeachment provisions.

Whereas presidential wars not declared by Congress under Article I, section 8, clause 11 are the most flagrant and dangerous of presidential usurpations;

Whereas President George Washington, who had presided over the Constitutional Convention and supported the Declare War Clause, elaborated during his service in office: The Constitution vests the power of declaring war with Congress; therefore, no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they have deliberated on the subject and authorized such a measure.;

Whereas presidential wars saddle the people with multi-trillion dollar indebtedness, diverts national genius from production to destruction, cripples liberty, silences the law, awakens enemies, and provokes blowback in the United States;

Whereas the absence of impeachment standards creates an appearance that impeachment is a partisan exercise, which undermines its legitimacy and deters its use;

Whereas the absence of definitions of war and co-belligerency for purposes of the Declare War Clause undermines its enforcement through the impeachment process or otherwise;

Whereas the law should warn before it strikes;

Whereas Article I, section 2, clause 5 provides that, The House of Representatives … shall have the sole Power of Impeachment;

Whereas the impeachment power of the House of Representatives is a cornerstone safeguard against Presidential tyranny;

Whereas the past neglect of the House of Representatives to use the impeachment power against Presidential usurpations and lawlessness has concentrated alarming power in the executive branch, crippled liberty, undermined transparency, and encouraged Presidents to further aggrandizements;

Whereas Article II, section 4 of the Constitution provides that, The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors;

Whereas the Constitutional Convention rejected neglect of duty or maladministration as impeachment standards in favor of high crimes and misdemeanors because the former terms were too broad;

Whereas impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors has an objective meaning based on the intent of the Constitution’s framers and British impeachment precedents;

Whereas Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 65 explained that impeachable offenses proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself;

Whereas the House of Representatives has voted articles of impeachment against two Presidents, one Cabinet officer, one Senator, one Supreme Court Justice, and 14 Federal judges without providing a general standard for defining an impeachable offense; and

Whereas every participant in the drafting, debating, and ratifying of the Constitution understood that the Declare War Clause prohibited presidential wars and entrusted exclusively to Congress the solemn responsibility for deciding whether the Nation should cross the Rubicon from a state of peace to a state of war: Now, therefore, be it

1.

Defining Presidential wars as impeachable offenses

The House of Representatives declares the following Presidential actions shall constitute impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors within the meaning of Article II, section 4, which will cause the House to vote an article or articles of impeachment to send to the Senate for trial:

  • Initiating wars against state or non-state actors without prior congressional declarations under Article I, section 8, clause 11 (Declare War Clause) by which Congress itself decides to take the United States from a condition of peace to a condition of war against an identified enemy.
2.

Defining presidential wars

Nothing in this resolution shall be interpreted to prohibit the President from responding with proportionate military force in the exercise of national self-defense to actual or imminent aggression or a declaration of war against the United States.

3.

Co-belligerncy

This resolution shall be interpreted to prohibit the President from making the United States a co-belligerent in an ongoing war without a congressional declaration under the Declare War Clause. For purposes of this section, the United States becomes a co-belligerent if it systematically or substantially supplies war materials, military troops, trainers, or advisers, military intelligence, financial support or their equivalent in association, cooperation, assistance, or common cause with another belligerent.

4.

Non-exclusivity

This Resolution shall not be interpreted to preclude the House of Representatives from concluding that other presidential actions constitute impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors within the meaning of Article II, section 4 either by supplemental resolutions or by ad hoc determinations.

5.

Effective date

This Resolution shall take effect upon passage by the House of Representatives.

 

 

Moral Injury 24 x 7

From Mike Hastie, a combat medic in the United States War against Vietnam:

Three weeks ago, I had a personal friend commit suicide by jumping off a bridge. She was not a veteran, nor is she someone identifiable by any of my activist friends. She did, however, suffer from severe moral injuries. Yesterday, I had a conversation with an Iraq veteran who was in Iraq in 2007. No one in his military unit were killed, but after they came home, six of his friends eventually committed suicide. The Iraq veteran I talked with attempted suicide, but eventually got help, and is doing quite well now.  Before I had the conversation with that veteran yesterday, I was working on a piece that I had titled, ” Moral Injury 24 X 7.”  This is that completed writing:

Moral Injury 24 X 7

“You” are walking around in circles,

morbidly depressed and withdrawn.

Nothing makes any sense anymore.

But, it never made any sense long  before

“You” ever went to war.

It was simply “your” turn to find out the

absolute truth, and finally realize why

countless veterans throughout history

wound up in suicide cemeteries.

“You” never knew about betrayal,

because those who went before

“you” were never allowed to speak.

The public just wants heroes.

They do not want to know the

veteran’s mindfield.

The magnitude of “your” illness is equal

to the depth of “your” silence.

Mike Hastie

Army Medic Viet Nam

June 20, 2018