Saturday, 30 August 2014

Perpetual war, indefinite detention, and torture: The U.S. and Israel’s shared values


US Military Prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Photo: AFP)
Published Saturday, August 30, 2014
The United States and Israel have "shared values" but not when it comes to upholding democracy and the rule of law. Their shared values are perpetual war, torture, indefinite detention, and military courts. Guantanamo is a perfect example of this. Both states have been in a state of perpetual war for quite some time with Israel against the Palestinians since its founding in 1948 while the U.S. can trace back its war to its founding in 1776 and the colonization of Native American lands. Today's global war on terror is the latest chapter in that saga. Under perpetual war, the United States and Israel can justify a litany of draconian policies, such as indefinite detention, torture, and extrajudicial killing.
International human rights law prohibits torture and detention without charge or trial. The UN Convention Against Torturestrictly forbids torture, even in "exceptional circumstances" like "a state of war or threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency." Meanwhile, article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states, "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention." The rights to a fair trial, due process, and to be free from torture and inhumane treatment are basic human rights that governments are obliged to uphold. Yet, both the United States and Israel practice indefinite detention – also known as "administrative detention" in Israel – and torture.
Administrative detention and torture in Israel


Israel has detained thousands of Palestinians in the occupied territories without charge or trial over the years "for periods ranging from several months to several years," according to Israeli human rights group B'Tselem. B'Tselem figures also report that, "At the end of May 2014, 196 Palestinian administrative detainees were held in facilities run by the Israel Prison Service (IPS)." Israel recently locked up over 250 Palestinians in administrative detention as part of its operation to find the three missing but killed Israeli settlers, putting the current population at around 450.
Three Israeli laws allow and regulate Israel's administrative detention powers – theAdministrative Detention Order, the Emergency Powers (Detention) Law, and the Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law.
The Administrative Detention Order, which applies to the West Bank except East Jerusalem, allows military commanders to detain a person for a maximum of six months "for reasons to do with regional security or public security." Commanders can repeatedly add six months of administrative detention, since there is no limit on extensions. The 1979 Emergency Powers Law allows the defense minister to detain a person for up to six months, like the Order, and extend the detention repeatedly six months at a time. It applies to Israeli residents, residents living in Israeli occupied territories, and residents of other countries, such as Lebanon. However, this law grants detainees more protections than the Order does. The 2002 Internment of Unlawful Combatants Law allows for the administrative detention of a civilian who directly or indirectly participates in hostilities against Israel or is a member of a force that does so. Under this law, persons can be detained for an unlimited period of time. This law is used to detain Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.
While the occupation is illegal and unjust, Israel, as an occupying power, has an international legal responsibility to uphold the welfare of Palestinians living under its control. International humanitarian law permits some internment (or detention without charge or trial) in wartime but only "for imperative reasons of security," according to Article 78 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Internment [detention] also has to be done on a case-by-case basis rather than implemented widely.


B'Tselem names the numerous ways in which Israel's use of administrative detention violates its international legal responsibilities as an occupying power. One is its "[e]xtremely extensive use" in contravention of international law. "Administrative detention has become routine practice, rather than an exceptional measure," according to B'Tselem. Relatedly, administrative detention is used as "an alternative to criminal proceedings" with authorities using it "as a quick and efficient alternative to criminal trial, primarily when they do not have sufficient evidence to charge the individual, or when they do not want to reveal their evidence." Administrative detention also lacks due process as detainees "are not provided meaningful information on the reasons for their detention and are not given an opportunity to refute the suspicions against them." Additionally, detention periods are repeatedly extended, which leaves Palestinians detained for several months to years without charge or trial. Israel has also used administrative detention against political opponents, including non-violent political activists. Finally, many Palestinian administrative detainees are held inside Israel.
In 1999, Israel's High Court of Justice issued a ruling that prohibited interrogators from using methods of torture as a means of interrogation. Before that ruling, Israeli security forces regularly "tortured thousands of Palestinian detainees each year," according to the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. In 1987, an Israeli government commission, headed by former Supreme Court President Moshe Landau, issued a report that provided a framework for Israel's torture regime. The Landau Commission recommended Shin Bet interrogators utilize torture methods, namely "psychological pressure" and a "moderate degree of physical pressure," against people suspected of "hostile terrorist activity." It argued that "an effective interrogation is impossible" without some physical force.
Despite the High Court's 1999 ban on torture, rights groups like the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) point out that the Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet and other law enforcement agencies still commit acts of torture. The PCATI largely relied on testimonies from Palestinian prisoners and forensic evaluations. In response, the Shin Bet denies it commits torture and argues that its interrogation methods are not only lawful but save lives.
Methods of torture and ill treatment of Palestinian prisoners since 1999, according to the PCATI, include "sleep deprivation, binding to a chair in painful positions, beatings, slapping, kicking, threats, verbal abuse and degradation," special methods like "bending the body into painful positions," "forcing the interrogee to crouch in a frog-like position ('kambaz'), choking, shaking and other violent and degrading acts (hair-pulling, spitting, etc.)," and psychological torture. Prisoners, some of whom are children, in solitary confinement often face "sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme heat and cold, permanent exposure to artificial light, detention in sub-standard conditions."


The High Court's ruling has loopholes for Israeli intelligence to circumvent the torture ban. One is the "necessity defense", which,according to PCATI, "under certain circumstances, exempts interrogators who employ illegal interrogation techniques, including physical violence, from criminal responsibility." Another is well-known the "ticking bomb" scenario, where torture is allowed to prevent an imminent threat, such as a bomb about to explode. PCATI argues that the government exploited this loophole to declare more detainees ticking time bombs and overstepping the court's intended scope. PCATI also accused the Shin Bet "taking advantage of the fact that only sleep deprivation for the sake of deprivation is illegal, not sleep deprivation indirectly caused from an extended interrogation," according to the Jerusalem Post.
Guantanamo, U.S. global war on terror
The 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed shortly after 9/11, authorizes the President of the United States "to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons" who "planned, authorized, committed, or aided" the 9/11 terrorist attacks "or harbored such organizations or persons." This bill gives the United States wide power to wage perpetual war around the world against alleged terrorist groups.
When the Obama administration entered office, it not only kept the AUMF in place, but expanded the bill's scope to continue the global war on terror. The Obama administration interprets the AUMF to include "associated forces" – essentially co-belligerents – of al-Qaeda, even though the bill does not include those words. Last year, the Washington Post reported that Obama administration officials were debating whether the AUMF could be stretched to include "associates of associates" of al-Qaeda, including groups like al-Nusra Front in Syria or Ansar al-Sharia in North Africa. Thus, Obama has shifted the war on terror's goalposts and continued its perpetuity.
The AUMF is the legal linchpin for the United States' global war on terror. It justifies the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, indefinite detention, kill-or-capture raids, extraordinary rendition, and drone strikes. But it is not the only legal measure for doing so. Last year, a week before President Obama'snational security speech, Obama administration officials told the Senate that even without AUMF, the government could use other laws to continue lethal operations against suspected terrorists, such as self-defense under international law. While both states engage in perpetual war under the language of "fighting terror," Israel's battlefield mostly extends to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while the United States' is the entire world.


The Guantanamo Bay detention facility was opened in 2002, as the global war on terror began. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, it provided bounties to tribal allies and Pakistani security forces to capture anyone believed to be connected with al-Qaeda or the Taliban and send them to American forces. This led to large swaths of low-level fighters and guys at the wrong place at the wrong time getting snatched up thanks to informants looking for money or scores to settle with their enemies. A Seton Hall studypointed out that only 5 percent of Guantanamo detainees were captured by U.S. forces, while 86 percent were captured by Pakistan or the Northern Alliance and handed to the United States.
Presently, there are 149 men detained in Guantanamo. Of those, 78 are cleared for release, 38 are designated for indefinite detention without charge or trial, 6 currently being tried in military commissions, and 36 who could go to trial. However, Guantanamo chief prosecutor Brig. Gen. Mark Martins told reporters last summer that 20 could be "realistically prosecuted."
Recently, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Congress that the military intends to release six Guantanamo detainees to Uruguay – four of whom are Syrian, one is Palestinian, and the other is Tunisian. All six have been cleared for release for over four years. This would bring the number of detainees cleared for release down to 72 and total Guantanamo inmate population to 143. Meanwhile, the U.S. government deems the indefinite detainees too difficult to prosecute, as there is little to no admissible evidence against them (some was obtained throughtorture), but too dangerous to release. According to Martins, these indefinite detainees will remain in Guantanamo "until the end of hostilities" against al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and "associated forces." Thus making them prisoners of war in an endless war.
In 2012, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), sections of which allow the military to indefinitely detain American citizens on US soil who allegedly "substantially supported al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces." When Obama stepped into office, he pledged to close the U.S. prison in Guantanamo. But the other half of his plan was less advertised. In order to close Guantanamo, Obama's original plan was to to move some Guantanamo detainees to an Illinois prison. Moreover, his administration decided, early on, to continue utilizing indefinite detention, much to the chagrin of civil liberties groups. However, Congress, particularly members of the Republican Party, fought against this plan not out of opposition to indefinite detention but because they did not want "terrorists" on American soil. This past May, the Obama administration's legal team told Congress that if Guantanamo detainees "were relocated to a prison inside the United States, it is unlikely that a court would order their release onto domestic soil," reportedThe New York Times.
Despite the fear-mongering of releasing "terrorist" from Guantanamo, according to a New America Foundation study, only 4 percent of released Guantanamo detainees engage in "militant activities against U.S. targets."
Abuses in Guantanamo, according to a 2006 Center for Constitutional Rights report, include beatings, shackling, solitary confinement, sexual harassment and rape, sleep deprivation, medical abuse, and religious and cultural humiliation. Some Guantanamo detainees were detained in secret CIA prisons before arriving at the U.S. military prison in Cuba. An ICRC report on the treatment of 14 "high value" detainees held in CIA black sites revealed that torture techniques in the secret prisons included sleep and food deprivation, playing of loud music, waterboarding, beatings, stress positions, cold temperatures and water, prolonged shackling, threats, and forced shaving. Around 100 detainees were held in CIA black sites and the majority of them were tortured.
However, torture is nothing new in U.S. foreign policy. A 1963 CIA interrogation manual instructs interrogators to utilize similar torture methods during the Cold War that have been used in the War on Terror.


To protest their indefinite detention and prison conditions, last year, Guantanamo detainees went on hunger strike, which launched the issue back into public consciousness. At its height, over 100 prisoners went on hunger strike. Hunger strikers were punished through force-feeding, a harsh procedure that involves shoving a tube up someone's nose and down their esophagus in order to feed them. This practice violates medical ethics and amounts to torture.
While the protest fizzled last year, dozens of Guantanamo prisoners reportedly remain on hunger strike. However, since the military instituted a media blackout on releasing hunger strike numbers, it's hard to know how many.
Last year, officials from the Israeli Medical Association wereinvited to the United States to advise American policymakers on how to deal with hunger-striking Guantanamo detainees. The Israeli doctors shared their experiences dealing with hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners.
Presently, a draft bill allowing Israeli prison authorities to force-feed prisoners sits in the Israeli Knesset. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is pressing strongly for the bill's passage, using the United States' infamous force-feeding of prisoners in Guantanamo as a justification. According to Israel's Channel 2 News, in order to justify the bill, Netanyahu noted "in Guantanamo the Americans are using the method of force-feeding too." Two months ago, dozens of Palestinians prisoners ended their 63-day-long hunger strike. But Israeli leaders like Netanyahu certainly see force-feeding as a useful tool to deal with future hunger strikes.
Military courts in Israel and Guantanamo
To prosecute Palestinians in the occupied territories, Israel utilizes a military court system. Military tribunals are typically used in wartime, particularly by occupying forces. At the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the United States erected a military court system, at the beginning of the global war on terror, to prosecute suspected terrorists. Currently the defendants include Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the suspected mastermind of the 2000 USS Cole bombing, and the five alleged plotters of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The military court systems in Israel and at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay each have their own unique, byzantine features. However, they do share a number of notable traits.


One commonality is the allowance of coerced evidence. In Professor Lisa Hajjar’s Courting Conflict: The Israeli Military Court System in the West Bank and Gaza (University of California Press, Ltd. 2005, p. 68-69), she writes that interrogations, mostly carried out by Shin Bet but sometimes the IDF and police, "feed the legal process by procuring confessions that are then turned over to police and prosecutors.” Interrogations occur in "inaccessible sites," are "conducted by secret agents," and commonly involve torture methods and other harsh treatment. A Defence for Children International/Palestine Section (DCI-Palestine) report on the treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military courts points out that, "According to DCI-Palestine lawyers that represent children in Israeli military courts, evidence is rarely excluded that is obtained through force or coercion."
In the Guantanamo military commissions, evidence obtained through torture is prohibited. However, coerced evidence is still allowed.
Another commonality is the use of secret or classified evidence. In the Israeli military court system, "Secret evidence is always the basis for administrative detention (i.e. incarceration without trial). Within the military court system, prosecutors can use secret evidence at extension-of-detention hearings to support their request that judges remand detainees. Secret evidence can also serve as a basis for charges," according to Lisa Hajjar (Ibid., p. 110).
Secret evidence is unavailable to both defense lawyers and defendants. "[T]he defense is afforded no opportunity to know the contents or contest the veracity of the evidence directly," which "taints the legal process" as a result, writes Hajjar (Ibid., p. 111).
The use of classified evidence has been a major issue in the Guantanamo military commissions system. In the commissions system, a protective order prohibits defense attorneys from disclosing classified information to unauthorized parties, including their clients, the press, and nongovernmental bodies. Defense attorneys argue that this undermines efforts to seek redress for torture victims, such as their clients, which is a right under international law. Additionally, defendants can be excluded from pretrial hearings in which classified evidence used against them will be discussed. Much of that classified information relates to how the detainees were treated in CIA custody. All six detainees who are being prosecuted in the military commissions system were detained and tortured in CIA black sites before they were sent to Guantanamo in 2006. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times, while al-Nashiri was waterboarded and threatened with a gun and power drill. Defense attorneys in the respective cases argue that their clients' torture is mitigating evidence and have been fighting for further disclosure.
Not only is the American-Israeli alliance characterized by $3 billion in yearly aid from the United States to Israel, along withunyielding political and diplomatic support, it is also characterized by shared values in perpetual war and indefinite detention.
Adam Hudson is a freelance journalist and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He covers U.S. national security, war and peace issues, Guantanamo, human rights, police brutality, and institutional racism. He tweets@adamhudson5

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Lebanese politicians apathetic towards the threat of the Islamic State


An image made available on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin on June 11, 2014 shows militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) posing with the trademark Jihadists flag after they allegedly seized an Iraqi army checkpoint in the northern Iraqi province of Salahuddin. (Photo: AFP-Welayat Salahuddin)
Published Wednesday, August 27, 2014
In Lebanon, scores of statements have been issued to denounce the practices of the Islamic State (IS). However, do these statements actually rise up to the actual extent of the risks that will be looming over Lebanon in case IS closes in on its borders? Are Lebanon’s politicians really taking these threats seriously?



As the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took over large swathes of land in Iraq and announced the establishment of an Islamic State (IS), the Lebanese public in general were busy making jokes about the organization. This only shows that the Lebanese, so taken up with the summer parties and festivities, have not yet realized the perils of ISIS’ transformation into an Islamic State, as it expanded in Iraq.
Despite the many campaigns launched in solidarity with the Iraqi Christian and Yazidi communities, a number of political factions in Lebanon have either belittled the significance of the Islamic State, or considered it as merely an armed group, one with no religious, political or even military dimensions.
Today, the main problem in Lebanon is that although a number of major developments have already taken place, the country is still dealing with this self-declared “state”, as if it were simply a name in the media or an image on the screen. And while international capitals such as Washington, London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow and many others, now consider the Islamic State a top priority, as expressed by their politicians and in their media, the Lebanese cabinet is busy discussing building landfills and opening new faculties and universities.
Meanwhile, as Damascus awaits an international and regional agreement on whether to launch US air strike or any other military action against IS, in coordination with the regime or without any cooperation with it, both Syria and Lebanon are at risk.
Unfortunately, in the past few days, Lebanese officials on all levels, have failed to show the proper amount of concern regarding the Islamic State, which is now threatening Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Both countries have already widened the scope of their international and regional communication channels as the IS continues to draw nearer on their borders.
In general, the Lebanese public is utterly engrossed in their own internal issues and in the political campaigns that have followed the battle in Ersal, to the extent that everyone has forgotten that there is a reason for everything taking place in Iraq, and for the events breaking out in Syria.
It is no secret that only a few officials in Lebanon are following up the advancements of the IS up close, most prominently Hezbollah, and not only because it has troops deployed in neighboring Syria.
MP Walid Jumblatt is also monitoring the situation in Iraq and Syria and he is concerned that the IS may eventually approach the Lebanese borders.
Meanwhile, Sunni political forces are publicly denouncing the IS without taking any tangible actions on the ground, and at the same time, the Lebanese Forces are belittling its magnitude, and the Free Patriotic Movement, represented in the government, is exploiting Christian concerns for its own electoral and presidential interests.
The informed political circles are well aware of Syria’s geographic nature. They are concerned about the recent critical developments and the heavy losses arising from IS’ capture of the Tabaqa airport near the Syrian city of al-Raqqa and their repercussions on Lebanon.
According to these circles, “After a red line was drawn for the IS advancement toward Kurdish regions in Iraq, and since it is very risky to head toward Saudi Arabia, the Islamic State is now focusing on Syria.”
“Recently, the IS has tightened its grip over the district of Raqqa and captured the Tabaqa military base. This is considered the biggest blow for the Syrian regime since the beginning of the war, and the biggest victory made by the IS militants since their military apparatus started to expand in Syria and in Iraq under its black flag,” they explained.



After taking control of Raqqa, the IS can now proceed in three other directions, since attacking the Kurdish region is no longer an option:
First, heading toward Deir Ezzor, neighboring Raqqa and Iraq, in order to expand the scope of its presence. This is considered the easiest option since IS already has military pockets present there.
Second, heading toward Aleppo. Yet, this option now seems unlikely since the battle between the regime and the armed opposition groups, including ISIS forces, has not been decided yet.
Third, heading toward Homs and Hama. Both these Syrian cities are geographically far from Raqqa, but are only separated by an almost barren desert. This option seems the most dangerous for Syria, since it will put both the Alawite and Christian regions under immense military pressure. Such a risk would eventually displace hundreds of thousands of people who will likely pour into Lebanon.
The third option seems to hold a direct threat to Lebanon, in case the battle reaches its northern borders. The Syrian regime will have to face the challenge of defending the Alawite and the Christian regions, while Hezbollah will have to defend Homs to keep ISIS from drawing near the Lebanese borders.
Lebanese political factions opposing Hezbollah and Syria, may denounce both parties and blame them for the actions committed by ISIS against Lebanon, exactly what the Future Movement has been doing.
Today, Lebanon is witnessing the rise of the Islamic State, and the Lebanese people are expecting to hear answers from their government, which represents pro- and anti- Hezbollah factions.
In fact, Lebanon took advantage of the battles in Iraq in order to enjoy a period of relative security. Nevertheless, the battle in Ersal seriously broke this stability and suggested negative repercussions for the future.
In the aftermath of Raqqa and the possibility the battle will move to Homs, how will Lebanon react if IS did decide to head toward Homs instead of Deir Ezzor? Will it be able to bear the military pressures on its borders, which will also have many consequences for neighboring Lebanese villages in the Bekaa and the north region, especially if one of the parties gets leverage?
After the events in Ersal and the threats of the Islamic State, who can guarantee that it will be possible to contain security events related to the Syrian crisis? What kind of measures can the cabinet impose on the borders? And what sort of measures are being taken to deal with the refugees?
In the end, one question ought to be answered before any other: Do the Lebanese authorities realize that the Islamic State actually exists and that it is closing in on Lebanon?
The events in Ersal and their aftermath suggest otherwise.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
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The Covert Origins of ISIS



Evidence exposing who put ISIS in power, and how it was done.

28.Aug.2014 

The Islamic militant group ISIS, formerly known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and recently rebranded as the so called Islamic State, is the stuff of nightmares. They are ruthless, fanatical, killers, on a mission, and that mission is to wipe out anyone and everyone, from any religion or belief system and to impose Shari'ah law. The mass executions, beheadings and even crucifixions that they are committing as they work towards this goal are flaunted like badges of pride, video taped and uploaded for the whole world to see. This is the new face of evil.

Would it interest you to know who helped these psychopaths rise to power? Would it interest you to know who armed them, funded them and trained them? Would it interest you to know why?
This story makes more sense if we start in the middle, so we'll begin with the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
The Libyan revolution was Obama's first major foreign intervention. It was portrayed as an extension of the Arab Spring, and NATO involvement was framed in humanitarian terms.
The fact that the CIA was actively working to help the Libyan rebels topple Gaddafi was no secret, nor were the airstrikes that Obama ordered against the Libyan government.However, little was said about the identity or the ideological leanings of these Libyan rebels. Not surprising, considering the fact that the leader of the Libyan rebels later admitted that his fighters included Al-Qaeda linked jihadists who fought against allied troops in Iraq.
These jihadist militants from Iraq were part of what national security analysts commonly referred to as Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Remember Al-Qaeda in Iraq was ISIS before it was rebranded.
With the assistance of U.S. and NATO intelligence and air support, the Libyan rebels captured Gaddafi and summarily executed him in the street, all the while enthusiastically chanting "Allah Akbar". For many of those who had bought the official line about how these rebels were freedom fighters aiming to establish a liberal democracy in Libya, this was the beginning of the end of their illusions.




Prior to the U.S. and NATO backed intervention, Libya had the highest standard of living of any country in Africa. This according to the U.N.'s Human Development Index rankings for 2010.However in the years following the coup, the country descended into chaos, with extremism and violence running rampant. Libya is now widely regarded as failed state (of course those who were naive enough to buy into the propaganda leading up to the war get defensive when this is said).
Now after Gaddafi was overthrown, the Libyan armories were looted, and massive quantities of weapons were sent by the Libyan rebels to Syria. The weapons, which included anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles were smuggled into Syria through Turkey, a NATO ally. The times of Londonreported on the arrival of the shipment on September 14th, 2012. (Secondary confirmation in this NYT article) This was just three days after Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed by the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi. Chris Stevens had served as the U.S. government's liaison to the Libyan rebels since April of 2011.
While a great deal media attention has focused on the fact that the State Department did not provide adequate security at the consulate, and was slow to send assistance when the attack started, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh released an article in April of 2014 which exposed a classified agreement between the CIA, Turkey and the Syrian rebels to create what was referred to as a "rat line". The "rat line" was covert network used to channel weapons and ammunition from Libya, through southern turkey and across the Syrian border. Funding was provided by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
With Stevens dead any direct U.S. involvement in that arms shipment was buried, and Washington would continue to claim that they had not sent heavy weaponry into Syria.
It was at this time that jihadist fighters from Libya began flooding into Syria as well. And not just low level militants. Many were experienced commanders who had fought in multiple theaters.
The U.S. and its allies were now fully focused on taking down Assad's government in Syria. As in Libya this regime change was to be framed in terms of human rights, and now overt support began to supplement the backdoor channels. The growing jihadist presence was swept under the rug and covered up.
However as the rebels gained strength, the reports of war crimes and atrocities that they were committing began to create a bit of a public relations problem for Washington. It then became standard policy to insist that U.S. support was only being given to what they referred to as"moderate" rebel forces.
This distinction, however, had no basis in reality.
In an interview given in April of 2014, FSA commander Jamal Maarouf admitted that his fighters regularly conduct joint operations with Al-Nusra. Al-Nusra is the official Al-Qa’ida branch in Syria. This statement is further validated by an interview given in June of 2013 by Colonel Abdel Basset Al-Tawil, commander of the FSA's Northern Front. In this interview he openly discusses his ties with Al-Nusra, and expresses his desire to see Syria ruled by sharia law. (You can verify the identities of these two commanders here in this document from The Institute for the Study of War)



Moderate rebels? Well it's complicated. Not that this should really come as any surprise. Reuters had reported in 2012 that the FSA's command was dominated by Islamic extremists, and the New York Times had reported that same year that the majority of the weapons that Washington were sending into Syria was ending up in the hands Jihadists. For two years the U.S. government knew that this was happening, but they kept doing it.
And the FSA's ties to Al-Nusra are just the beginning. In June of 2014 Al-Nusra merged with ISIS at the border between Iraq and Syria.
So to review, the FSA is working with Al-Nusra, Al-Nusra is working with ISIS, and the U.S. has been sending money and weapons to the FSA even though they've known since 2012 that most of these weapons were ending up in the hands of extremists. You do the math.
In that context, the sarin gas attacks of 2013 which turned out to have been committed by the Syrian rebels, makes a lot more sense doesn't it? If it wasn't enough that U.N. investigatorsRussian investigators, and Pulitzer prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh all pinned that crime on Washington's proxies, the rebels themselves threatened the West that they would expose what really happened if they were not given more advanced weaponry within one month.
By the way, this also explains why Washington then decided to target Russia next.
This threat was made on June 10th, 2013. In what can only be described as an amazing coincidence, just nine days later, the rebels received their first official shipment of heavy weapons in Aleppo.
After the second sarin gas fiasco, which was also exposed and therefore failed to garner public support for airstrikes, the U.S. continued to increase its the training and support for the rebels.
In February of 2014, Haaretz reported that the U.S. and its allies in the region, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel, were in the process of helping the Syrian rebels plan and prepare for a massive attack in the south. According to Haaretz Israel had also provided direct assistance in military operations against Assad four months prior (you can access a free cached version of the page here).
Then in May of 2014 PBS ran a report in which they interviewed rebels who were trained by the U.S. in Qatar. According to those rebels they were being trained to finish off soldiers who survived attacks.
"They trained us to ambush regime or enemy vehicles and cut off the road,” said the fighter, who is identified only as "Hussein." "They also trained us on how to attack a vehicle, raid it, retrieve information or weapons and munitions, and how to finish off soldiers still alive after an ambush."
This is a blatant violation of the Geneva conventions. It also runs contrary to conventional military strategy. In conventional military strategy soldiers are better off left wounded, because this ends up costing the enemy more resources. Executing captured enemy soldiers is the kind of tactic used when you want to strike terror in the hearts of the enemy. It also just happens to be standard operating procedure for ISIS.
One month after this report, in June of 2014, ISIS made its dramatic entry, crossing over the Syrian border into Iraq, capturing Mosul, Baiji and almost reaching Baghdad. The internet was suddenly flooded with footage of drive by shootings, large scale death marches, and mass graves. And of course any Iraqi soldier that was captured was executed.
Massive quantities of American military equipment were seized during that operation. ISIS took entire truckloads of humvees, they took helicopters, tanks, and artillery. They photographed and video taped themselves and advertised what they were doing on social media, and yet for some reason Washington didn't even TRY to stop them.
U.S. military doctrine clearly calls for the destruction of military equipment and supplies when friendly forces cannot prevent them from falling into enemy hands, but that didn't happen here. ISIS was allowed to carry this equipment out of Iraq and into Syria unimpeded. The U.S. military had the means to strike these convoys, but they didn't lift a finger, even though they had been launching drone strikes in Pakistan that same week.
Why would they do that?
Though Obama plays the role of a weak, indecisive, liberal president, and while pundits from the right have had a lot of fun with that image, this is just a facade. Some presidents, like George W. Bush, rely primarily on overt military aggression. Obama gets the same job done, but he prefers covert means. Not really surprising considering the fact that Zbigniew Brzezinski was his mentor.
Those who know their history will remember that Zbigniew Brzezinski was directly involved in the funding and arming the Islamic extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan in order to weaken the Soviets.




By the way Osama bin Laden was one of these anti-Soviet "freedom fighters" the U.S. was funding and arming.
This operation is no secret at this point, nor are the unintended side effects.
Officially the U.S. government's arming and funding of the Mujahideen was a response to the Soviet invasion in December of 1979, however in his memoir entitled "From the Shadows" Robert Gates, director of the CIA under Ronald Reagan and George Bush Senior, and Secretary of Defense under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, revealed that the U.S. actually began the covert operation 6 months prior, with the express intention of luring the Soviets into a quagmire. (You can preview the relevant text here on google books)
The strategy worked. The Soviets invaded, and the ten years of war that followed are considered by many historians as being one of the primary causes of the fall of the USSR.
This example doesn't just establish precedent, what we're seeing happen in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria right now is actually a continuation of a old story. Al-Nusra and ISIS are ideological and organizational decedents of these extremist elements that the U.S. government made use of thirty years ago.
The U.S. the went on to create a breeding ground for these extremists by invading Iraq in 2003. Had it not been for the vacuum of power left by the removal and execution of Saddam, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, aka ISIS, would not exist. And had it not been for Washington's attempt at toppling Assad by arming, funding and training shadowy militant groups in Syria, there is no way that ISIS would have been capable of storming into Iraq in June of 2014.
On every level, no matter how you cut it, ISIS is a product of U.S. government's twisted and decrepit foreign policy.
Now all of this may seem contradictory to you as you watch the drums of war against ISIS begin to beat louder and the air strikes against them are gradually widenedhttp://www.wjla.com/articles/2014/08/president-obama-considers-possible-...). Why would the U.S. help a terrorist organization get established, only to attack them later?
Well why did the CIA put Saddam Hussein in power in 1963?, Why did the U.S. government back Saddam in 1980 when he launched a war of aggression against Iran, even though they knew that he was using chemical weapons? Why did the U.S. fund and arm Islamic extremists in Afghanistan against the Soviets?
There's a pattern here if you look closely. This is a tried and true geopolitical strategy.
Step 1: Build up a dictator or extremist group which can then be used to wage proxy wars against opponents. During this stage any crimes committed by these proxies are swept under the rug. [Problem]
Step 2: When these nasty characters have outlived their usefulness, that's when it's time to pull out all that dirt from under the rug and start publicizing it 24/7. This obviously works best when the public has no idea how these bad guys came to power.[Reaction]
Step 3: Finally, when the public practically begging for the government to do something, a solution is proposed. Usually the solution involves military intervention, the loss of certain liberties, or both. [Solution]
ISIS is extremely useful. They have essentially done Washington dirty work by weakening Assad. In 2014, while the news cycle has focused almost exclusively on Ukraine and Russia, ISIS made major headway in Syria, and as of August they already controlled 35% of the country.
Since ISIS largely based in Syria, this gives the U.S. a pretext to move into Syria. Sooner or later the U.S. will extend the airstrikes into Assad's backyard, and when they do U.S. officials are already making it clear that both ISIS and the Syrian government will be targeted. That, after all, is the whole point. Washington may allow ISIS to capture a bit more territory first, but the writing is on the wall, and has been for some time now.
The Obama administration has repeatedly insisted that this will never lead to boots on the ground, however, the truth of the matter is that anyone who understands anything about military tactics knows full well that ISIS cannot be defeated by airstrikes alone. In response to airstrikes ISIS will merely disperse and conceal their forces. ISIS isn't an established state power which can be destroyed by knocking out key government buildings and infrastructure. These are guerrilla fighters who cut their teeth in urban warfare.
To significantly weaken them, the war will have to involve ground troops, but even this is a lost cause. U.S. troops could certainly route ISIS in street to street battles for some time, and they might even succeed in fully occupying Syria and Iraq for a number of years, but eventually they will have to leave, and when they do, it should be obvious what will come next.
The puppets that the U.S. government has installed in the various countries that they have brought down in recent years have without exception proven to be utterly incompetent and corrupt. No one that Washington places in power will be capable of maintaining stability in Syria. Period.
Right now, Assad is the last bastion of stability in the region. He is the last chance they have for a moderate non-sectarian government and he is the only hope of anything even remotely resembling democracy for the foreseeable future. If Assad falls, Islamic extremist will take the helm, they will impose shari'ah law, and they will do everything in their power to continue spreading their ideology as far and wide as they can.
If the world truly wants to stop ISIS, there is only one way to do it:
1. First and foremost, the U.S. government and its allies must be heavily pressured to cut all support to the rebels who are attempting to topple Assad. Even if these rebels that the U.S. is arming and funding were moderate, and they're not, the fact that they are forcing Assad to fight a war on multiple fronts, only strengthens ISIS. This is lunacy.
2. The Syrian government should be provided with financial support, equipment, training and intelligence to enable them to turn the tide against ISIS. This is their territory, they should be the ones to reclaim it.
Now obviously this support isn't going to come from the U.S. or any NATO country, but there are a number of nations who have a strategic interest in preventing another regime change and chaotic aftermath. If these countries respond promptly, as in right now, they could preempt a U.S. intervention, and as long this support does not include the presence of foreign troops, doing so will greatly reduce the likelihood of a major confrontation down the road.
3. The U.S. government and its allies should should be aggressively condemned for their failed regime change policies and the individuals behind these decisions should be charged for war crimes. This would have to be done on an nation by nation level since the U.N. has done nothing but enable NATO aggression. While this may not immediately result in these criminals being arrested, it would send a message. This can be done. Malaysia has already proven this by convicting the Bush administration of war crimes in abstentia.
Now you might be thinking: "This all sounds fine and good, but what does this have to do with me? I can't influence this situation."
That perspective is quite common, and for most people, it's paralyzing, but the truth of the matter is that we can influence this. We've done it before, and we can do it again.
I'll be honest with you though, this isn't going to be easy. To succeed we have to start thinking strategically. Like it or not, this is a chess game. If we really want to rock the boat, we have to start reaching out to people in positions of influence. This can mean talking to broadcasters at your local radio station, news paper, or t.v. station, or it can mean contacting influential bloggers, celebrities, business figures or government officials. Reaching out to current serving military and young people who may be considering joining up is also important. But even if it's just your neighbor, or your coworker, every single person we can reach brings us closer to critical mass. The most important step is to start trying.
If you are confused about why this is all happening, watch this video we put out on September 11th, 2012




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BONUS ARTICLE (an interesting tangent): Were the Libyan rebels being led by a CIA plant?
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
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