That’s what the surveillance state is trying to do. It has the means, the will and the latitude to go after journalism the way it went after terrorism. Only a more activist press, working together, stands a chance of resisting this.
Last week, the novelist and former CIA operative Barry Eisler published one of the most important posts I have read about what’s happening to the press since the Snowden revelations began in early June. In it, he tries to explain why authorities in the UK detained Brazilian national David Miranda for nine hours at Heathrow airport and confiscated all the technology he had on him. (Miranda, as everyone following the story knows, is the spouse of The Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald. He had been acting as a courier, bringing documents on encrypted thumb drives back and forth between Greenwald in Brazil and his collaborator, Laura Poitras, in Germany.)
Eisler’s explanation of this pivotal event is the most persuasive I have seen.
1. Sand in the gears
“Put yourself in the shoes of the National Surveillance State,” he writes. You’ve already commandeered the internet for state use and you have most of the world’s communications monitored and stored. Journalists are beginning to realize than none of their means is secure, so they’re retreating to face to face meetings, traveling backwards in technological time to evade your reach. But you find out about one of these meetings: Greenwald’s spouse is visiting Berlin. Eisler explains:
The purpose was to demonstrate to journalists that what they thought was a secure secondary means of communication — a courier, possibly to ferry encrypted thumb drives from one air-gapped computer to another — can be compromised, and thereby to make the journalists’ efforts harder and slower.
Recognizing that you can’t bring journalism to a complete halt, you try to throw sand in the gears. David Miranda was detained and questioned under a terrorism statute in Britain. What’s the connection? As Eisler says, “Part of the value in targeting the electronic communications of actual terrorists is that the terrorists are forced to use far slower means of plotting. The NSA has learned this lesson well, and is now applying it to journalists.”
They really think -- Barack really thinks -- he can walk away from this. It's not going away and the heats about to get hotter in the next few days. F**k his plans to attack Syria, they aren't going to matter.
This is where the focus will be and he can just keep dreaming that he can sweet talk his way out of this. That's just not happening.
This is from George Washington's Farewell Address:
It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositaries, and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield.
Barack has lied to the American people about his spying. He has lied to the Congress about his spying. He continues lying.
He has failed in every way as a leader. If he had any self-respect, he would resign.
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
We're going to kick off with Truth Dig's Robert Scheer and his thoughts on an attack on Syria. We called out Scheer for his verbal attacks on Ralph Nader and Hillary Clinton and have avoided him since. He's getting pulled back in now because he spoke out against the Iraq War and he's speaking out against an attack on Syria. We'll ignore him with regards to election politics (although, who knows, he may now regret his blind cheer leading of Barack) but I will applaud him for speaking out. Ava and I are planning a piece for Sunday on all the human crap that has chosen to remain silent -- but, wait, is silent promoting yourself? No, they're not silent, they Tweet and blog about their albums, concerts and movies -- they can hawk their wares, they just can't call out the illegal spying or the attack on Syria. But, oh, how they had a great deal to say when Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House. I strongly and loudly applaud Robert Scheer for having the ethics to speak out today as he did during the Bully Boy Bush reign.
Philip Maldari: So in this piece, you sort of run down the history of the US close relationship with Saudi Arabia indicating that the Saudis are very interested in encouraging an attack on the Assad regime and, in this case, the possible -- I'm using the word "possible" -- nerve gas attack on the civilians there as a pretext to your way of thinking. Do you want to elaborate?
Robert Scheer: Look, the US record in the whole MidEast is so tawdry, so wrong headed for so long, I mean, gosh you could go back to the overthrow of [Prime Minister Mohammad] Mosaddegh in Iran, you know the last really significant, secular, democratically elected leader. Now we're financing the military and they've overthrown a democratically elected government in Egypt. And for John Kerry and others to oh-we're-shocked-and-we-have-to-act-and-we-have-to-respond? No, the US does not have to do anything. I mean this idea that we are somehow the moral force keeping the peace when we're still the people who believe in using nuclear weapons. We're the only ones who have used nuclear weapons. And we just went through the anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki a couple of weeks ago and we still, as a nation, have not absorbed the significance of killing hundreds of thousands of men, women and children. And yet we get on our high horse, here is Kerry -- you know, how did Kerry come to prominence? He was an officer in Vietnam and, you know, War Crimes were committed, 3.5 million people were killed. So I'm only going through this whole litany to challenge the whole idea here that somehow a US response or France -- the great colonial power -- or England, that they have to respond. It's utter nonsense. But the real subtext here, the important subtext is this is all being done for a theocracy, for oil. This is all driven by Saudi Arabia for gosh sake. This is, all markers [point to], as I pointed out in my column Bandar bin Sultan the guy who was the Saudi ambassador in Washington for two decades -- and they're the great winners in this thing -- whether you're talking about Egypt or Syria or anything else that's happening. They have made Iran the great enemy here. Somehow Iran is identified with terrorism and so Syria has a connection with Iran and Hezbollah and so forth. And the real issue here is whether Saudi money and along with Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates should be allowed to buy, purchase what was the Arab Spring. And that's what's happened.
Philip Maldari: And in the meantime, we've got the video of hundreds of men, women and children were murdered. We're talking about no visible trauma on their bodies. It has not been proven by the UN inspectors yet that it's nerve gas. This is playing on TVs around the world.
Robert Scheer: Yes.
Philip Maldari: And for you to suggest, 'Oh well, what's a person to do' is just --
Robert Scheer: No, no, no. Not 'what's a person to do,' you know, no. What is the United States to do. And the idea that the United States has a responsibility everywhere in the world to be the moral force and decider and 'Oh, the UN inspectors got in there too late' and so forth. And by the way, you're talking about a people killed what about the people killed in Egypt? We didn't do anything. We still haven't even cut off aid even though legally our president's required to cut off. So we are the ones who are intimately involved in a military coup to destroy democracy in Egypt, the most important Arab country in the MidEast by far. You know, we are the people who supported intervention in Egypt forever. And, no, we are not the great decider, old George W. Bush. Why do you buy into that?
Philip Maldari: [snapping] I'm not buying into anything!
Robert Scheer: You know what about these pictures, there are pictures all over the place of people killed in Egypt. Did we then intervene to prevent this military coup? No. So this hysteria that is created and then somehow -- What I am challenging is, yes, the basic assumption that the US is the great moral force that should intervene everywhere in the world. And what's happening in Syria, which we should understand here, we don't know, it's very murky, who is creating, producing poison gas or what have you. But the fact of the matter is that the people who are opposed to the regime are people who we claim are terrorists. They're supporters of al Qaeda, they're coming in from all over the world. We forget that it was Saudi Arabia, the same Bandar who supported the Taliban in Afghanistan where the whole war on terror started. And Saudi Arabia's financing the opposition in Syria, they're supporting the military in Egypt and they were one of the three governments in the world that recognized the Taliban along with the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan and we're now following their lead.
Philip Maldari: So in the meantime, Bob, we've got Obama already having said, more than a year ago, there's some kind of red line if chemical weapons are used in Syria. So he appears, if he does nothing, to be essentially a wimp internationally and that is actually his reputation with Republicans right now. So that's okay with you?
Robert Scheer: What is this language wimp? This is how we discuss foreign policy? Because Obama's speech on this or his comments on this the other day were very clear that you should have evidence, and you should be international and the UN should -- and so on. All the things that Bush did not do. Everyone's forgetting this horrible war that Bush waged on Iraq -- which by the way extended Iran's influence enormously and put people who had been living in exile in Iran in power in Iraq. And Saddam Hussein, by the way, is someone who did use chemical warfare. We supported Saddam Hussein. That's what Rumsfeld went and met with Saddam Hussein after he had used that against Iran in the Iraq - Iran War. We didn't think that was such a horrendous thing. And then we invented the charge of Weapons of Mass Destruction which turned out to be a big lie. You would think after waging this war and totally upending the whole life and politics of the MidEast on the basis of lies that you would have some humility. Where is humility in foreign policy? George Washington in his farewell address said, "never use force in international relations, use gentle means." He was against this arrogance and foreign entanglements. The whole notion of the American republic was not to be an empire, not to follow the lead of Rome, France and England and their empires -- Spain. And so you're talking like -- what is this wimp language, it's stupid. Frankly, it's stupid. What is this machismo?
We'll stop there. Robert Scheer's exactly right and if Philip is more concerned about Barack's image than Syrians who would be harmed in killed in missile strikes?
Oliver Holmes and Erika Solomon (Reuters) report today, "People in Damascus stocked up on supplies on Wednesday and some left homes close to potential targets as U.S. officials described plans for multi-national strikes on Syria that could last for days." And Philip's fretting over Barack's image? Where are the priorities? And Philip needs to stop talking about Republicans -- it was the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show last week (Diane was not part of the broadcast) when the guest host and 3 journalists advocated for war (if you're late to the party, see "Media: Pimping War") and basically called Barack a p**sy.
Philip really needs to re-examine why Lew Hill started Pacifica Radio and ask himself why he's at Pacifica? What a sad day for Pacifica, as an on air (with KPFA for too many years -- forced retirement needs to be raised at Pacifica) implores for war on the basis of 'not attacking will mean the man I want to suck off will be called a wimp.' Actually, Philip should have been removed from the air in 2008 when he was saying, on air, that Barack was a Socialist. At this point, Philip's KPFA's Bertha Mason -- who knows what horrors took place before he was confined to the attic and seen as insane?
Picking up on a point Robert Scheer made above, we'll note Robert Fisk (Independent via ZNet):
If Barack Obama decides to attack the Syrian regime, he has ensured – for the very first time in history – that the United States will be on the same side as al-Qa’ida.
Quite an alliance! Was it not the Three Musketeers who shouted “All for one and one for all” each time they sought combat? This really should be the new battle cry if – or when – the statesmen of the Western world go to war against Bashar al-Assad.The men who destroyed so many thousands on 9/11 will then be fighting alongside the very nation whose innocents they so cruelly murdered almost exactly 12 years ago. Quite an achievement for Obama, Cameron, Hollande and the rest of the miniature warlords.
It's a point that pops up when Julian Pecquet (The Hill) interviews former US House Rep Dennis Kucinich:
Airstrikes on Syria would turn the U.S. military into “al Qaeda's air force,” former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) told The Hill.
The outspoken anti-war activist said any such action would plunge the United States into another war in the Middle East and embolden Islamist militants fighting Bashar Assad's regime.
“So what, we're about to become Al Qaeda's air force now?” Kucinich said. “This is a very, very serious matter that has broad implications internationally. And to try to minimize it by saying we're just going to have a 'targeted strike' — that's an act of war. It's not anything to be trifled with.”
Kucinch spoke out then and speaks out now. Another person who spoke out against war on Iraq and speaks out against the push for war on Syria is Sara Flounders. From this Workers World video:
Sara Flounders: A big thing on Syria, and a reason that the US is determined to destroy it, to shred it, to rip it apart is that it is a secular state and there is nationalized property. And, as Barbara just described, there's a rich culture. There's enormous -- whether it's in TV or it's archaeological or its the high education level, or it's the fantastic, really, I mean, the medical schools? Top notch. The pharmaceutical industry. They want to destroy all of this. And they also -- It's what they want to destroy. It's what they're targeting in Iran. The idea of a country using its oil wealth for its own development and the development of the culture and the educational level of its people and a huge improvement in life expectancy -- a big cut in child mortality. That's big accomplishments. But the very fact that Syria -- it's an example to the whole region -- could be a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural, secular state. And it's secular, see. And the US response has been how to bring in intolerant religious fanaticism. And fund it. And fund it and use it as a battering ram against any kind of progress.
Debra Sweet also spoke out against the Iraq War. She and her group World Can't Wait are the only left group that has remain true and ethical with regards to opposing wars others folded shop (United for Peace and Justice) and others offered cover for Barack (and whine today -- but we'll save that for Sunday). Debra is calling out proposed military action against Syria and she notes David Swanson so let's point out that he too called out the Iraq War and he's now calling out the proposed violence aimed at Syria:
But while the U.S. never contemplated an intervention to stop the killing in Egypt by an illegitimate government it supports, President Obama is already intervening in Syria, "supplying paramilitary material, intelligence, and training and working to define the politics of the armed opposition forces. Its close allies—especially Saudi Arabia and Turkey—are supplying weapons to these forces" according to Revolution.
The US Navy is putting ships into place for an action that could have huge consequences: the killing of many more civilians in urban areas in aerial attacks; the increase in violence on both sides (both of which have terrorized the people); the widening of war into Iraq, Iran, Lebanon? Nothing good or the people of Syria can come of this "humanitarian intervention."David Swanson wrote Saturday Lying About Syria, and the Lying Liars Who Lie About the Lying:
“Threatening to attack Syria, and moving ships into position to do it, are significant, and illegal, and immoral actions. The president can claim not to have decided to push the button, but he can't pretend that all the preparations to do so just happen like the weather. Or he couldn't if newspapers reported news.Ask the population of Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia — the most recent recipients of U.S. "humanitarian intervention" — how it has U.S. presence worked out?
“(Yes, illegal. Read the U.N. Charter: ‘All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.’)”
I only thought we were saving it for Sunday. We'll touch on it there but I just went to the website of CodeStink.
Medea Benjamin, stop lying.
She whines to Buzzfeed that it's just so hard these days to mobilize and Syria and blah blah. Well you know what, it's a lot damn harder to mobilize when you don't even bother to mention Syria on your website's front page.
3 action alerts, 3 events and 8 news items on their main page and six changing items (all listed below the slide show) and not one of them -- not one damn one -- is about Syria.
Medea, stop whoring.
You're not trying to do a damn thing re: Syria so stop lying. No one needs it. And no one needs to take you or Jodi seriously. CodeStink is a joke because it was used in 2007 and 2008 to clear the path for Barack. You whored before he was president, you whore now.
And don't bother telling me, "We had an action alert." Yes, I found your attempt to get media attention ploy. You just didn't put it on the main page of CodeStink, did you? I already took a screen snap so don't try to rewrite history again. Wait and see where Ava and I go on Sunday. People's lives are at stake and we've had it with the Brigade of Barack's Bitches. Maybe we'll call the piece "The Burial of Barack's Bitches"? Tick-tock, find a spine by Saturday or be prepared for the humiliation that's coming. That includes CodeStink's friends (I'm not referring to grassroots members of CodeStink -- believe me, when I say "CodeStink's friends," a shiver just went up Jodie's spine).
From the right, Libertarian Justin Raimondo (Antiwar.com) spoke out strongly against war on Iraq. (And Antiwar.com was one of the first to call out the frauds of CodeStink, noting Medea's embrace of the Afghanistan War after Barack became president.) Today he notes talk of attacking Syria:
The UN inspection team in Syria has been "delayed" due to a dispute among the rebels, who could not or would not guarantee the team’s safety. While the Assad government has granted them access, the suburb of Damascus where the alleged chemical attacks occurred is in rebel-controlled territory. Western news media aren’t reporting the reason for the delay, mostly sticking with the official UN statement:
“Following yesterday’s attack on the U.N. convoy, a comprehensive assessment determined that the visit should be postponed by one day in order to improve preparedness and safety for the team. Considering the complexities of the site, confirmation of access has not been obtained but is expected later today.”
The "complexities of the site" include a rebel occupation force that has everything to fear from a real inspection. These are same people responsible for serial hoaxes, some of them pretty crude, and all designed to fool us into believing Assad’s forces had launched a poison gas attack – not against rebel forces but against civilian bystanders. The last UN inspection led to the conclusion that if anyone had used chemical weapons it was the rebels, and after this tremendous buildup that’s the last news the US and its Syrian sock-puppets want to hear.
Of course it’s just a coincidence that the US government told the UN inspection team to turn back even before they arrived on the scene, with Washington claiming they already have enough evidence to convict the Assad regime out of hand.
At the State Dept today, their very own Minnie Pearl handled another briefing. Could someone tell spokesperson Marie Harf that if she's going to be a spokesperson, she needs to pay attention to her appearance? That means dressing appropriately, combing your hair before the briefing and choosing a non-ridiculous pair of glasses. Those tasks shouldn't be too difficult, Jay Carney manages to accomplish them before every one of his White House press briefings and doesn't appear to be winded or wiped out from doing so. Marie Harf's annoying "let me finish, I'm talking" b.s. is also starting to tick off the press so her superior may need to talk to her about that. Excerpt of Minnie Pearl's performance today.
MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the daily briefing. I do not have anything at the top, so I’m going to go ahead and open it up for questions.
QUESTION: Can we start with Syria and maybe never leave Syria, actually --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and the – what’s going on or what did go on at the UN earlier? Is it the Administration’s position that UN authorization is required for any kind of response that you might undertake, and did you or do you have any feelings about what – the British move to get, apparently unsuccessfully, to try and get authorization?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, as you know the P-5 just met this morning to discuss the text of a draft UN Security Council resolution, which as you pointed out, was drafted by our UK counterparts. We’ve consistently said that we support UN Security Council action. My understanding is that today we heard nothing different from the Russians in today’s meeting than we have for months and, indeed, years about Syria, including – let’s just go through some of the history here – three vetoes of UN Security Council resolutions. Just last week, the Russians blocked a press statement – a potential press statement condemning the attack without even assigning culpability. So we have no reason to believe that efforts at the Security Council would be any different than these previous efforts that have failed.
QUESTION: Okay, but that doesn’t really answer my – that’s good to know, but –
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: -- do you believe that UN Security Council authorization is required for any kind of response to the chemical weapons attack?
MS. HARF: Well, I’d say a few points. First is that there’s been no decision made on what the response will be.
QUESTION: But --
MS. HARF: Second, in --
QUESTION: Regardless, you have said --
MS. HARF: Can I make my second point, please, and then if you have a follow-up, we’ll get to that next?
MS. HARF: Well, our initial read of the text put forward this morning is that it is a strong and compelling text. We see no avenue forward given continued Russian opposition to any meaningful council action on Syria. Therefore, the United States will continue its consultations and will take appropriate actions to respond in the days ahead. I think I would like to point out a statement that I think is appropriate from William Hague, the Foreign Secretary – I think he made it recently – that the UN Security Council should rise to its responsibilities by condemning these events and calling for a robust international response. But all previous attempts to get the Security Council to act on Syria have been blocked, and we cannot allow diplomatic paralysis to be a shield for the perpetrators of these crimes. I think we would certainly share that view.
QUESTION: Right. But my question is --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you believe that UN Security Council authorization is required to make whatever response you’re going to come up with legal?
MS. HARF: Well, as I just said, we see no avenue going forward given continued Russian opposition to any meaningful council action. We will continue our consultations and take appropriate actions going forward. I don’t have anything further for you than that.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on this --
MS. HARF: I’ll go to you next, Arshad.
QUESTION: -- specific question, though? It seems as though the U.S. and its allies on the Security Council deemed the Security Council an appropriate venue for some sort of preliminary diplomatic action that would precede whatever other action is going to follow, but having not gotten the result desired from that venue, is then blithely moving on and saying we really don’t need that venue to do what we want to do.
MS. HARF: Well, I’d make a few points. We’ve consistently said that we support UN Security Council action. Instead, what we’ve seen – not just today, not just last week, but over the course of many months – is the Russians at every move doing things to fail to hold the Syrian regime accountable. They’ve had three resolutions vetoed, as I said. They’ve blocked many other statements condemning the Syrian regime. So we do not believe that the Syrian regime should not be able to hide behind the fact that the Russians continue to block action on Syria at the UN, and we will make our decisions on appropriate action going forward, and we will stay in close consultation with the United Nations, with the Secretary General, with our partners on the P-5 and around the world.
QUESTION: So in other words, if you don’t get the verdict or result that you want from the Security Council, then you blow off the Security Council and do with your allies what you planned to do anyway, right?
MS. HARF: I think I would respond to that by saying we believe it’s very important, as others have said – including the Arab League, the most important regional group of Arab nations – that the Syrian regime needs to be held accountable here. We firmly believe that. We will take action towards that end after the President makes the decision, and that’s what we’re going to do going forward.
QUESTION: So why did you bother with the Security Council in the first place if you were so accustomed to Russian obstructionism there?
MS. HARF: Well, we believe it’s an important venue, obviously. Again, the P-5 just met this morning. We value the work of the UN. We’ve long said that we welcome UN actions on Syria. This case was no different, but again, we cannot be held up in responding by Russia’s intransigence – continued intransigence at the United Nations that, quite frankly, the situation is so serious that it demands a response.
QUESTION: Why not --
MS. HARF: Yes, Arshad.
QUESTION: -- take it to – why not take it to a vote and, in effect, dare the Russians to veto again?
MS. HARF: Again, in terms of a vote, we don’t see an avenue going forward with a vote given
continued Russian opposition. And I would underscore again, as I did yesterday, that no decision’s been made, so much of this is hypothetical. But again, that’s our position, and I don’t think I have much further than that.
QUESTION: Are you afraid that if you took it to a vote and the Russians vetoed, as they have the three previous efforts, that you would then have the – made manifest the absence of Security Council authorization, and in fact you would have – it would be very clear that the Security Council had ultimately decided not to authorize such a resolution? Are you afraid that that makes anything you might do much harder?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to venture a guess in answering that question. I think the Russians have made clear repeatedly what their point of view is. I don’t think there’s any secret about where the Russians stand on Syria in the Security Council, so it’s not like anybody’s hiding anything here. We just, at this point, don’t think it’s the proper course of action.
QUESTION: So do you believe that the U.S. decision to bomb Kosovo in – or to bomb – excuse me – Serbia in ‘99 was legal?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to do a legal analysis on many things, but certainly not a historical event that happened some time ago. I just don’t think that’s relevant for this discussion today.
If you're unable to state whether an action the US government took 14 years ago was legal or not, you're really not ready to handle press briefings.
Syria is not located on the moon or Mars. Syria borders Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Iraq. An attack on Syria would effect the entire region. Catholic World News notes:
The destructive results of Western intervention would be felt not only in Syria but also in neighboring Iraq and Lebanon, said Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako. He said that Syria could be torn apart by “a proliferation of jihadist militias,” leaving the country in chaos.
The Chaldean Patriarch pointed out that Iraq is still suffering from the consequences of American-led intervention 10 years ago. Iraq, he said, is “still battered by bombs, security problems, by the instability of the economic crisis.”
Father Sako is calling for dialogue. He is not the only with serious concerns in Iraq. Today, Marco Werman (PRI's The World) spoke with Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor). Excerpt.
Marco Werman: And on top of all of that, as I said, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki put Iraqi security forces on high alert because of the possibility of a US-led strike on Syria. Connect the dots if there are dots to be connected here. Is what's happening in Iraq linked to a possible strike on Syria?
Jane Arraf: The Iraqi government believes it is and lots of Iraqis themselves believe that's what's happening there with the increased attacks is absolutely linked to Syria
Marco Werman: How so?
Jane Arraf: If we just go back a little bit -- Well, a decade let's say to 2003 when al Qaeda really didn't exist in Iraq, the Americans coming in, toppling Saddam Hussein and installing US forces in the country provided the perfect battle ground for al Qaeda and other groups. Syria has now become that perfect battle ground. There are all sorts of reasons to be fighting there. There are Iraqis going to fight on either side. And it has become the new rallying call. Now the problem is that it's a very long border between Iraq and Syria. There are a lot of tribal links and there are a lot of other links. In fact, fighters and weapons are going back and forth across that border. If you talk to the prime minister, he will say that a lot of their problems are coming from Syria. It's not clear whether you can blame most of the violence, most of the chaos in Iraq on what's happening in Syria. But Iraqi officials, and American officials as well, do seem quite confident that there is a link between groups in Iraq that are engaging in violence and groups in Syria that are not only engaging in violence but that seem to be in the ascendancy there.
Marco Werman: I mean, so could you see, Jane, how a possible US strike on Syria would just completely open up that border and suddenly all sorts of violent, bad people would be crossing back and forth?
Jane Arraf: To some extent yes. But that's not the only danger there. As the Iranians have pointed out, if there is a strike on Syria, that will be the spark that sets the whole region alight because then, all of the sudden, you have history in a sense replaying itself and you have the United States and other western powers coming in in what will be seen -- no matter what side you're on -- as -- in many cases, it will be seen -- as an unprovoked attack. So they're in a rather impossible situation. But there does seem to be a consensus that if there is an air strike, it will inflame the situation. What that means is it will provide more reason for fighters to go to Syria because all of the sudden you have the West again attacking an Arab country. And terms of the border? Iraq has been trying to beef up that border. It's physically trying to deepen and widen a trench that exists.
Iraq already suffers enough. For example, through yesterday, Iraq Body Count puts the violent deaths for the month at 725 so far. And Iraq is yet again slammed with violence today.
Kareem Raheem, Raheem Salman, Sylvia Westall, Yara Bayoumy, Sami Aboudi and Mark Heinrich (Reuters) count 71 dead today and another 201 injured. Charlie Campbell (Time magazine) notes the Baghdad and immediate surrounding area death toll has risen to 80. AFP counts over a dozen bombs in Baghdad. In Baghdad, Haddad Salih (BBC News) notes of the areas hit, "Some of these areas are Shia dominant, others are mixed, Shia-Sunni, while Mahmudiya and Saydiyah to the south are mainly Sunni." Fu Peng (Xinhua) explains, "The attacks occurred during the morning rush hours when 12 car bombs went off in Baghdad, while a suicide bomber struck a restaurant in the nearby town of Mahmoudiyah, an Interior Ministry source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity."
Prensa Latina notes, "According to the Iraqi police, the explosion of a car bomb near a movie theater in the capital's southern neighbour Yadida was the most serious attack, which caused the death of five people and wounds to 15." Agencia EFE goes with, "The worst incident occurred in Latifiya, a city located about 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) south of the capital, where gunmen killed seven members of a family." Adam Schreck and Sinan Salaheddin (AP) emphasize, "In one particularly brutal attack, a Shiite family was shot dead at home in the largely Sunni town of Latifiyah, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Baghdad. Four children, ages eight to 16, were killed along with their parents and an uncle, police said." Sadie Gray (Times of London) repeats Reuters' report of an eye witness in Sadr City believes he saw a man park a car, eat "breakfast and drank his tea" before setting off a car bomb, "I heard a huge explosion when I was inside the kitchen. When I went outside, I saw his car completely damaged and he had disappeared. Many people were hurt." AFP observes, "Angry residents of one neighbourhood chased down a suspected attacker and killed him before setting his corpse ablaze."
In addition to violence in Baghdad, NINA reports a Tikrit roadside bombing left two police officers injured, a Hilla armed attack claimed the life of 1 military captain (eleven soldiers left injured), a Mosul roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left four other family members injured (all were Shabaks), and 1 police officer was shot dead in Kirkuk. The Voice of Russia adds, "The Sunni governor of Mosul, Athiel al-Nudjaifi survived an attack in which people ignited explosives near his convoy, reported security forces."
Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) points out, "This comes as Iraqi security forces have been conducting "The Revenge for the Martyrs" -- an operation designed to track down al Qaeda members in and around Baghdad." Because violence doesn't solve violence. But why should Nouri grasp what his puppet master Barack doesn't? Alsumaria reports Nouri has declared Iraq to be on maximum alert. Gulf Today explains he did this in his weekly address. Yasir Ghazi and Tim Arango (New York Times) report:
For days before the strikes, the local media published warnings by the government that a new wave of attacks was imminent, and security forces set up new checkpoints and other security measures. But in the end, the security forces were unable to stop the attacks, further undermining the confidence Iraqis have in the government to protect them. In recent weeks, the security forces have undertaken a series of operations, mostly in Sunni neighborhoods, as part of a campaign the government is calling “the revenge of the martyrs.” The Shiite-dominated government claims to have arrested hundreds of Sunni extremists and discovered a factory that makes car bombs, but the operations have also further antagonized the Sunni community, with only limited effect on reining in the violence.
As W.G. Dunlop did earlier this week, Ghazi and Tim Arango put it on the record that the Iraqi government is attempting to bury the death toll (the Ministry of Interior -- headed by Nouri because he failed to ever nominate someone to head it -- issued a statement this evening claiming only 18 people were killed in Iraq today).
Turning to the topic of illegal spying, what's wrong with this item Amy Goodman delivered on Democracy Now! this morning:
The National Security Agency has acknowledged new abuses of its surveillance powers. In a statement, the NSA said it had uncovered "very rare instances of willful violations of NSA’s authorities" by agency operatives. Some NSA officials were found to have spied on love interests, with one monitoring a former spouse. According to The Wall Street Journal, the practice is "common enough to garner its own spycraft label: LOVEINT."
Someone may have thought that was cute. It wasn't. It was stupid and offensive. A "love interest" is a character in a film that's the hero or heroine's partner and is little more than that. It's Robert Redford in The Way We Were -- no matter how many script tantrums he had, the film is the story of Barbra Streisand's character (his inability to play the naming scenes -- when Hubbel names names -- also go to his character being nothing but the love interest) or it's Michelle Pfeiffer in Wolf.
A "love interest" is not a former spouse. Even in the medically enhanced sixties, Paul Newman couldn't sell that as his pursuit of ex-wife Janet Leigh (Harper) just seemed creepy. Today, we're much smarter -- except for whomever wrote the item Goodman read -- and grasp someone obsessed with a former spouse is a stalker.
So call what it is and stop trying to cute-en it or sweeten it. And stop being stupid enough to accept the crooks own terminology ("LOVEINT"). This is offensive. The National Organization for Women has this fact sheet on violence against women. I suggest people familiarize themselves with it before they next want to play cute with stalkers.
Not only is playing 'cute' insulting to the victims of violence and not only does it distort obsession and stalking by treating them as funny and cute (in a newscast, come on), it also allows the offensive spying to sound better. 'Oh, we all do crazy things when we're in love, ha ha.' No, that's not love. Spying on someone is not love. The American people most recently rejected that lie on a massive scale in their response (box office) to 2012's 'romantic comedy' This Means War -- in which two CIA agents spy on Reese Witherspoon.
There was nothing funny about the US government and the UK government terrorizing David Miranda at a London airport. Miranda is the spouse of Glenn Greenwald, the reporter who has broken many of the NSA spying stories (including the first scoop). Greenwald speaks with Jonathan Franklin (Truthout via ZNet):
JF: How do you think history will remember this whole affair? It is still unfolding but nonetheless, a lot has already gone down. What is Glenn Greenwald’s prediction on the historic legacy of all this?
GG: I think this will be the time the world realizes that the US and its closest allies are trying to build a surveillance system that has as its primary objective the elimination of privacy globally, by which I mean that everyone’s communications electronically will be collected, stored, analyzed and monitored by the US government.
I think it will be seen as the moment that the United States showed its true face to the world in terms of attacks on journalism and their desire to punish anyone who brings transparency.
[. . .]
JF: You have cracked many a secret at the NSA, but we all think this is just the tip of the iceberg. What are your deepest fears about surveillance and spying? How much more insidious, widespread is this?
And we'll close with these two Tweets Greenwald made today:
the times of london
the times of london