The four-star general in charge of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan told senators today that he has given the Pentagon different options for slowing the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
There are now roughly 13,000 international troops in Afghanistan, 9,800 of them Americans, Campbell said. President Obama’s current plan would have reduced that to 5,500 soldiers, mostly centered in Kabul, by the end of this year. Army Gen. Cambell said that the Afghan government under its new president, Ashraf Ghani, did not want the U.S. to pull back so quickly.
“If they were to see us leave at that pace it would lower their morale,” Campbell said at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Campbell did not give numbers for his proposed options, but said it would not be a massive troop increase above Obama’s current plan, but rather “more flexibility on location.” He expressed particular concern about being able to support Afghan troops during this year’s fighting season, which starts in the spring.
The Senators at the hearing expressed support for Campbell’s proposal. Republican members, particularly new committee chairman John McCain, R-Az., lambasted the Obama administration for having a “calendar-based” rather than “condition-based” drawdown.
Senators were concerned by the example of Iraq’s descent into war with the Islamic State, repeatedly asking Campbell if an American withdrawal from Afghanistan would lead to a similar situation.
Campbell insisted that Afghanistan would not disintegrate once Americans left, citing Afghan national pride and his belief that “the Afghan security forces are not going to let Afghanistan go in the way of Iraq.” The U.S. has spent $65 billion to date training Afghanistan’s security forces, but attrition remains a problem, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan.
Asked about reports that the Islamic State is establishing a presence in Afghanistan, Campbell said he believed it was, at this point, “more of a rebranding of a few marginalized Taliban” looking to exploit the current spotlight on ISIS, “as a way to gain resources, media attention.”
Last week, a U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan reportedly killed a former Guantanamo detainee, Mullah Abdul Rauf, who had apparently sworn allegiance to ISIS and begun recruiting for the group there. But it was unclear whether he had real ties to ISIS in Iraq or Syria, or was acting opportunistically after a fallout with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The strike against Rauf is also a reminder that while combat operations in Afghanistan formally ended in December, the administration is continuing airstrikes and special operations there, as well as training and assistance to Afghan forces. Tens of thousands of U.S. military contractors also remain in the country.
Photo: AP/Massoud Hossaini
The post Top U.S. General in Afghanistan Provides ‘Options’ for Slowing Troop Withdrawal appeared first on The Intercept.
FBI Director James Comey repeatedly defended the police in a speech intended to address race relations after a series of high profile killings by law enforcement officers.
Speaking at Georgetown University this morning, Comey said citizens need to have more empathy for police, that police response time is not influenced by race, and that “law enforcement is not the root cause of problems in our hardest hit neighborhoods.”
Comey also cited and quoted from the song “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” from the Broadway play Avenue Q, adding that, while everyone has a duty to try and overcome bias, “racial bias isn’t epidemic in those who join law enforcement any more than it is epidemic in academia or the arts.” And yet “after years of police work, officers often can’t help but be influenced by the cynicism they feel” and begin viewing black citizens differently.
The much-anticipated address comes in the wake of a series of killings of black citizens at the hands of local police, including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Eric Garner in New York; and Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio. Video of the speech is available here, and the prepared, written version of the remarks here.
Among the oddest of Comey’s remarks was that citizens should give more deference and attention to police.
“The citizens need to see what the police see,” Comey said. “They need to see the risk and danger of law enforcement. And they need to give them the respect and space to do their jobs properly.”
Since when do police in the U.S. get too little respect? This is a country that reveres and worships police officers. Go to a basketball game and you will see cops honored during half time. Offer mild criticism of the police, as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio did last year, and you will be pilloried and labeled anti-police. Show faint solidarity with the #blacklivesmatter demonstrators, as the St. Louis Rams did, and fans will turn against you and organize boycotts.
Comey’s call for empathy for police felt especially strange after he sympathetically explained why an officer would take the “mental shortcut” of racially-tinged judgment, i.e. why he would behave in a racist fashion:
Two young black on one side of the street look like so many others that officer has locked up. The two white men on the other side of the street, even in the same clothes, do not. The officer does not make the same association about the two white guys. The officer turns toward one side of the street and not the other.
Why would the FBI Director ask citizens to sympathize with prejudiced thinking against a group of Americans he knows have been routinely and specifically targeted by law enforcement?
It probably has a lot to do with the fact that Comey is in denial about the impact of that kind of thinking. This is the same man who honestly thinks, as he put it in his speech today, “When you dial 911, whether you are black or white, the cops come and they come quickly.”
The failure of police to respond to emergency calls is one of the biggest complaints from communities of color. There’s an old joke back in my neighborhood in St. Louis: “You want 5.0 to come quicker? Tell them a white woman just got robbed.”
Comey attempted to stake out the central ground as he invoked the Avenue Q song “Every One’s A Little Bit Racist” to explain away law enforcement’s abuse of black people. He actually quoted, but thankfully did not sing, the lyrics, “Everyone makes judgments/Based on race.”
What Comey did not say, and what he seems incapable of recognizing, is that, despite individual biases, only white America and its police state possessed the power to subjugate and oppress a population for nearly 500 years.
Photo: Cliff Owen/AP
The post FBI Director Defends Police, Says Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist appeared first on The Intercept.
In the new issue of its magazine Dabiq, the Islamic State boasts of the progress it’s made in polarizing the world into two sharply opposing camps—its supporters on one side, and on the other, the West and all those Muslims who do not accept its newly declared “Caliphate.”
“As the world progresses towards al-Malhamah al-Kubr (the “Great Battle”), the option to stand on the sidelines as a mere observer is being lost,” the magazine writes, in its cover story, titled “From Hypocrisy to Apostasy: The Extinction of the Grayzone.” It also lauds “the withering of the grayzone” and grimly warns Muslims in the West that they will soon be forced to make “one of two choices.”
The new issue also includes an article purportedly written by British hostage John Cantlie, a defense of recent Islamic State killings of those accused of “sexual deviance,” and an article about two recently executed Japanese hostages. It also features graphic images of a decapitated head, and the badly burned body of Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh, who was captured and killed by the Islamic State.
The utility of such shocking and provocative attacks is explained as a means of “dragging the masses into the battle” through actions that will “inflame opposition and which will make the people enter into the battle … such that each individual will go to the side which he supports,” the authors write.
Dividing the world into opposing camps in this manner has long been a tactical objective of extremist ideologues.
In an influential jihadist document first published online in 2004 and entitled “The Management of Savagery,” the late Al Qaeda strategist Abu Bakr Naji cited the need to “transform societies into two opposing groups, igniting a violent battle between them whose end is either victory or martyrdom.”
In recent interviews, Islamic State members have stated that The Management of Savagery remains a highly influential text within the organization, and is employed as part of the training curriculum for commanders, as well as for rank-and-file operatives.
University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole has noted this divide-and-conquer strategy draws less from traditional Islamic theology than from the practice of 20th century European radicals who also sought to “sharpen the contradictions” between various groups as a means of violently reshaping society.
The magazine also cites recent attacks in France against Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket as being undertaken in order to “further bring division to the world and destroy the grayzone everywhere.”
The magazine even approvingly cites former U.S. President George W. Bush, and his war on terror rhetoric. “Bush spoke the truth when he said, ‘Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.’ Meaning, either you are with the crusade or you are with Islam,” the magazine states.
Photo: Jens Meyer/AP
The post New Islamic State Publication Touts Progress in Clash of Civilizations appeared first on The Intercept.
Waffenstillstand und Abzug schwerer Waffen: In der weißrussischen Hauptstadt gingen die Verhandlungen zur Ukraine-Krise zu Ende
Von HANS BERGER, 12. Februar 2014 -
Schon bevor am gestrigen Mittwoch Staats- und Regierungschefs aus der Ukraine, Deutschland, Frankreich, Russland sowie Vertreter der ostukrainischen Rebellen im weißrussischen Minsk zusammenkamen, waren Hoffnungen auf einen wirklichen Durchbruch bei den Verhandlungen kaum vorhanden. Man wertete bereits die Anwesenheit der Protagonisten als Erfolg. Während der vielstündigen Marathonsitzung änderte sich an der Stimmung wenig, was nun wirklich wie und von wem diskutiert wurde, blieb undurchsichtig, Meldungen von Einigungen und Dementis wechselten einander ab.
Am Ende hatte der Krisengipfel dann
I didn’t know Yusor Mohammad, Deah Shaddy Barakat or Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha — the victims of Craig Stephen Hicks’ shooting spree in Chapel Hill, North Carolina – but I recognize them. Anyone who has spent time in American Muslim communities would, and that’s partly why this horrible crime is so painful. I realize I’m making assumptions and maybe getting sentimental in the process, but I can’t help it. The personalities that come through from the testimonies of friends and family, the record of the efforts and achievements of these young people, and the photographs that radiate such joy and life are all too familiar to miss.
Yusor, Deah, and Razan — may they rest in peace — are like so many young American Muslims I know. These are hard-working, well-meaning, family-oriented people. Muslim communities around the country are full of Yusors, Deahs, and Razans, and they are the ones who are out there, inspiring the older generation out of their despair at the state of the world by their actions. These young American Muslims are the ones who think deeply about inequality at home and injustice abroad, and act on both. They are the ones who will volunteer to deliver food (or dental supplies) to the needy while organizing assistance for Syrian refugees abroad. They are the people who are never searching for outside recognition for their efforts but who are acting out of their moral commitment to doing the right thing. They are the ones who take school very seriously, and their careers seriously, but who will always find time for others at the drop of a text.
I know so many young American Muslims like this, who love to have fun and are constantly laughing and joking with each other, even if to outsiders their humor may seem corny and hardly cynical enough, and even if their taste in movies or books or clothes is often safe and mainstream. These are the young American Muslims who are as confused and disgusted by phenomena like ISIS as everyone else, and they’ve never done anything to support extremism. They consider themselves to be completely American (as you should see them, too) as well as Syrian or Pakistani or Afghan or Palestinian, so they find this constant scrutiny on who they are or what they say or what they wear to be invasive, to say the least.
Over the last decade and a half, a terrible reflex has developed when it comes to discussing anything that happens to Muslims. I’m not even talking about the reflex of blaming all Muslims collectively for the actions of a few individuals. I’m talking about the other reflex that blames Muslims — implicitly or explicitly — for whatever tragedy has befallen them. Muslims are spied on as a group, and when they point out that this is unconstitutional, they’re assumed to be hiding something, as if everybody else has a right to privacy but it’s completely okay to deny it to Muslims. In February 2014, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought the Center for Constitutional Rights and others against the New York Police Department for its spying activities. In his 10-page opinion, Judge William J. Martini wrote, “The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself” and blamed not the NYPD but the Associated Press for leaking details about police intelligence activities.
Muslims propose to build Islamic Centers around the country and are met with all kinds of opposition (often disguised as objections about “parking,” incidentally). Then the same construction projects, now overblown in significance because of the opposition, are used to “prove” that Muslims are trying to take over the country. That’s what happened in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for example, where opposition — which included arson, vandalism, and loony litigation claiming that Islam isn’t a religion but a cult — delayed the opening of an Islamic Center for two years. In this case, only when a U.S. federal court stepped in did the project proceed, and the same community has since faced renewed opposition over plans for a cemetery.
When Muslims are attacked in the wake of the horrible Charlie Hebdo attacks, you can almost hear the parlor conversations. “Yes, it’s wrong,” the man says to the woman, “but the Muslims, well, they had it coming.”
What’s infuriating about the murder of the three young people in North Carolina is not only their tragic deaths, but also the speed by which the motive of the shooter has been labeled a “parking dispute” by the authorities and the press, as if that explains anything and as if a hate crime or a political crime could not also have a catalyzing event. The question is not whether this was either a hate crime or parking rage. It can be both.
By all accounts, the shooter was always the belligerent one here, and yet the word “dispute” also suggests that the two parties were locked in conflict, as if responsibility is shared. That’s completely ridiculous and duplicitous, and other marginalized groups — LGBT communities, women, African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, the poor, and so many more — will recognize the reflex immediately for what it is: a way to displace and justify the violence of the dominant group onto the weaker.
Photo: Al Drago/The News & Observer/AP
Each year, Reporters Without Borders issues a worldwide ranking of nations based on the extent to which they protect or abridge press freedom. The group’s 2015 ranking was released this morning, and the United States is ranked 49th.
That is the lowest ranking ever during the Obama presidency, and the second-lowest ranking for the U.S. since the rankings began in 2002 (in 2006, under Bush, the U.S. was ranked 53rd). The countries immediately ahead of the U.S. are Malta, Niger, Burkino Faso, El Salvador, Tonga, Chile and Botswana.
Some of the U.S.’s closest allies fared even worse, including Saudi Arabia (164), Bahrain (163), Egypt (158), the UAE (120), and Israel (101: “In the West Bank, the Israeli security forces deliberately fired rubber bullets and teargas at Palestinian journalists”; 15 journalists were killed during Israeli attack on Gaza; and “the authorities also stepped up control of programme content on their own TV stations during the offensive, banning a spot made by the Israeli NGO B’Tselem that cited the names of 150 children who had been killed in the Gaza Strip”).
To explain the latest drop for the U.S., the press group cited the U.S. government’s persecution of New York Times reporter Jim Risen, as well as the fact that the U.S. “continues its war on information in others, such as WikiLeaks.” Also cited were the numerous arrests of journalists covering the police protests in Ferguson, Missouri (which included The Intercept‘s Ryan Devereaux, who was tear-gassed and shot with a rubber bullet prior to his arrest).
It should come as no surprise that the U.S. continues to plummet in press freedoms under Obama. In October, 2013, the Committee to Protect Freedom issued a scathing denunciation of the U.S. government’s attacks on press freedoms, the first time the U.S. was ever the subject of one of its reports. Written by former Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie, Jr., it detailed the multiple ways the Obama administration has eroded press freedoms, and concluded:
The administration’s war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive I’ve seen since the Nixon administration, when I was one of the editors involved in The Washington Post’s investigation of Watergate. The 30 experienced Washington journalists at a variety of news organizations whom I interviewed for this report could not remember any precedent.
That warning echoed the one previously issued by James Goodale, the General Counsel of the New York Times during the Pentagon Papers battle, who said: “President Obama wants to criminalize the reporting of national security information” and “President Obama will surely pass President Richard Nixon as the worst president ever on issues of national security and press freedom.”
(Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
The post U.S. Drops to 49th in World Press Freedom Rankings, Worst Since Obama Became President appeared first on The Intercept.
TTIP – die transatlantische Freihandels- und Investitionspartnerschaft (oft auch „transatlantisches Freihandelsabkom- men“ genannt) ist seit geraumer Zeit Gegenstand heftiger Kontroversen und Anlass vielfältiger Gegenbewegungen. Der schlichte Zweck dieses geplanten Abkommens lautet: Mehr Geschäfte sollen zustande kommen, mehr Geld soll verdient werden können und das Ganze diene letztendlich dem Wohl der beteiligten Nationen und dem der Bevölkerungen. Daraus ergibt sich das Prinzip, das mit TTIP verbindlich gemacht werden soll: Nichtdiskriminierung, d. h. politische Regeln sollen den Zugang ausländischer Unternehmen zu gleichen Bedingungen gewährleisten.
Auch der DGB hat sich auf seinem Bundeskongress im Mai 2014 mit einem umfassenden Papier zu diesem Ab- kommen geäußert und danach zusammen mit dem Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie ein gemeinsames Positionspapier ver- öffentlicht.
Die Gegner dieses Abkommens be- fürchten nicht nur die Absenkung von hiesigen und europäischen Standards (z. B. Verbraucherschutz, Gesundheits- schutz, Umweltschutz, Produktsicherheit, Zulassung von Arzneimitteln etc.), sondern auch Angriffe auf tarifliche und sozialstaatliche Regulierungen.
Einer besonderen Kritik unterliegt der angezielte Investorenschutz mit den berüchtigten Schiedsgerichten als supranationale Instanz, die das Recht des Eigentums auf Vermehrung vor unzulässigen staatlichen Eingriffen und politischen Korrekturen schützen soll. Der Verlust staatlicher Souveränität und rechtsstaatlicher Substanz – letztlich der Abbau von Demokratie stehe zu befürchten, merken viele Kritiker/innen an.
Viele interpretieren TTIP und die damit verbundenen Ziele als Durchsetzung der Macht großer Kapitale und multi- nationaler Konzerne, die die beteiligten Staaten in der Hand haben und sie „nach ihrer Pfeife tanzen lassen“. Hier steht die Frage nach der Gestaltungsmacht in der internationalen Konkurrenz und der Gleichung von ökonomischem Erfolg und politischem Einfluss zur sicherlich kontroversen Diskussion.
Im Seminar wird versucht, alle relevanten Themen im Zusammenhang mit TTIP zu diskutieren und zu einem Verständnis der Entwicklungen zu gelangen, das über US-amerikanische Chlorhühnchen hinausreicht.
1. Verhandlungsgegenstände und Grundsätze von TTIP
2. Prinzipien der ökonomischen Staatsraison
3. Investorenschutz – Schiedsgerichte
4. Konkurrenz und Kooperation der beteiligten Staaten (USA/EU): Vorherrschaft und Gleichrangigkeit – ein widersprüchliches Verhältnis
5. TTIP und Weltordnung 6. Abschlussdiskussion
Harald Klimenta, Andreas Fisahn u. a.: Die Freihandelsfalle. Transatlantische Industriepolitik ohne Bürgerbeteiligung- das TTIP. Hamburg 2014 (VSA Verlag)
Die Teilnahme ist nur nach Anmeldung möglich.
Teilzeitteilnahme wird nicht akzeptiert.
Fahrtkosten, Verpflegung und Getränke können nicht übernommen werden.
Der Teilnahmebeitrag beträgt 5 Euro.
Das Seminar beginnt pünktlich um 10:00 Uhr.
DGB Bildungswerk Bayern Schwanthalerstraße 64 80336 München
Tel.: 089 559336-20 Fax: 089 5380494 Mail: wolfgang.veiglhuber@bildungswerk- bayern.de
As the U.S. continues to bomb the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, President Obama asked Congress today to approve a new legal framework for the ongoing military campaign.
The administration’s draft law “would not authorize long-term, large-scale ground combat operations” like Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama wrote in a letter accompanying the proposal. The draft’s actual language is vague, allowing for ground troops in what Obama described as “limited circumstances,” like special operations and rescue missions.
The authorization would have no geographic limitations and allow action against “associated persons or forces” of the Islamic State. It would expire in three years.
Speaking at New York University School of Law this afternoon, Harold Koh, the State Department’s legal adviser until 2013, said that the Obama administration is currently on shaky legal grounds, tying the airstrikes to a law passed days after 9/11.
Koh said that stretching the law like that is inconsistent with Obama’s stated goal of bringing the U.S. off of “perpetual wartime footing.” Acting without a new authorization from Congress “doesn’t promote the end of the ‘Forever War,’” Koh said.
Since August, the U.S. and other nations have carried out more than 2,300 airstrikes, according to data released by the U.S. military and compiled by journalist Chris Woods.
The administration currently justifies those airstrikes by invoking self-defense and the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force. Passed one week after the September 11th, 2001 and just 60 words long, that law in broad language gave the White House the power to go after anyone connected to the 9/11 attacks.
Thirteen years on, it is still the main legal backing for the war in Afghanistan and for the targeted killings of alleged Al Qaeda affiliates in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia–though there is now a growing consensus among legal scholars and some members of Congress that the law is being used to justify military action it wasn’t originally intended to cover.
Tying ISIS to the 9/11 attacks on the basis of a tenuous relationship to Al Qaeda is probably taking things too far, Koh and others argue.
Obama maintains that he too would like to see the 2001 law narrowed and eventually repealed. But the White House ISIS proposal doesn’t address it, although it would roll back the 2002 law underpinning the war in Iraq.
Congress decided to postpone debating an ISIS authorization until after the midterm elections last fall—voting either way on a new war seemed politically dicey to both parties.
It’s possible that legislators won’t come to an agreement on the White House proposal, with many Democrats saying it’s still too open-ended, and some Republicans chafing at the idea of adding more restrictions.
Senator Tim Kaine, D-Va., said in a statement that he was “concerned about the breadth and vagueness of the U.S. ground troop language” in the White House draft. It says that it does not permit “enduring offensive ground combat operations,” without further clarification.
In his letter to Congress, Obama wrote that the administration’s goal was to “degrade and defeat” ISIS. That may be the rhetoric, Koh said, but the actual strategy is probably closer to, “drive them out of Iraq and back into Syria, which is a country that is already in total chaos.”
Koh also expressed concern that airstrikes against ISIS have the side effect of bolstering Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in the country’s civil war, even though the U.S. position is still that Assad “must go.”
“The future of Syria is a horrible thing to contemplate,” said Koh.
Photo: AP/U.S. Air Force
The post Obama Asks Congress to Authorize War That’s Already Started appeared first on The Intercept.
Das verschlafene Dörfchen Asotthalom auf der ungarischen Seite der Grenze zu Serbien kommt nicht mehr zur Ruhe. Zehntausende verzweifelte Kosovo-Albaner haben in den vergangenen zwei Monaten versucht, über diese Grenzregion in die EU zu gelangen.
„Es waren 500, 1000 jeden Tag“, sagt Bürgermeister Laszlo Toroczkai: „Sie kommen tagtäglich, rund um die Uhr.“ Achtzig Prozent von ihnen seien Kosovo-Albaner, der Rest stamme aus Syrien, Afghanistan und Afrika. Nach Schätzung der Medien in der Kosovo-Hauptstadt Pristina sollen seit Anfang Dezember 50 000 Menschen aus dem Land geflüchtet sein. Sie fahren mit Bussen oder Taxen durch Serbien bis zur Nordgrenze nach Ungarn.
Von der letzten
Russland will das erste Atomkraftwerk in Ägypten bauen. Eine entsprechende Absichtserklärung wurde am Dienstag in der ägyptischen Hauptstadt Kairo unterzeichnet. Zugleich werde die Militärkooperation beider Länder gestärkt, kündigte Staatsoberhaupt Abdel Fattah al-Sisi bei einer gemeinsamen Pressekonferenz mit dem russischen Präsidenten Wladimir Putin im Präsidentenpalast in Kairo an. In den vergangenen Jahrzehnten war Ägypten vor allem mit den USA eng verbündet.
Washington hatte nach dem Sturz des islamistischen Präsidenten Mohammed Mursi durch die Armee 2013 seine Militärhilfe für Ägypten (1,3 Milliarden US-Dollar jährlich) eingeschränkt. Seitdem bemüht sich Kairo um Moskau. Auch im Anti-Terrorkampf wollen Russland und Ägypten enger zusammenarbeiten.
Russland zählt du