Freethought San Marcos: A column
by LAMAR W. HANKINS
Peter Hart, from Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, recently discussed the provocative idea that George W. Bush, as well as others in his administration, aided terrorism. This idea arises as a result of evidence introduced at the trial of whistleblower Private Bradley Manning.
To show that Manning’s unauthorized release of information about American actions during the war in Iraq had harmed the US by encouraging attacks against the West, the prosecution did the following, as reported by the New York Times:.
“A prosecution witness in the sentencing phase of the court-martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning told a military judge on Thursday that Al Qaeda could have used WikiLeaks disclosures, including classified United States government materials provided by Private Manning, to encourage attacks in the West, in testimony meant to show the harm done by his actions. . . . The witness, Cmdr. Youssef Aboul-Enein, an adviser to the Pentagon’s Joint Intelligence Task Force for Combating Terrorism, said that WikiLeaks materials showing that the United States had killed civilians, for instance, could help Al Qaeda.”
Aboul-Enein said, “Perception is important because it provides a good environment for recruitment, for fund-raising and for support for Al Qaeda’s wider audience and objectives.”
Hart suggests that “the potentially most damaging part of Manning’s disclosures was that the war kills civilians–and that U.S. enemies could use that fact to recruit others.”
The standard, then, appears to be as Hart wrote: “the killing of civilians might rally people behind the cause of Al Qaeda.” Hart identifies the invasion of Iraq itself as the cause of all of the killing, but that just scratches the surface of the disclosures of horrendous acts that inflame hatred of the US and lead to enhanced recruitment of people by Al Qaeda to commit acts of terrorism against both the US and its allies.
When the horror of Abu-Ghraib was revealed, Bush’s Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld could not stop talking publicly about how horrible such practices were, always blaming anyone but the administration for the “stuff” that happens in war. In his 2011 memoir, “Known and Unknown,” Rumsfeld seems to admit that Abu-Ghraib atrocities committed by US soldiers harmed the US once they were revealed. Of course, Iraqis who were abused eventually would have been released and passed stories around of their horrendous treatment by US troops, or their families would have revealed their abusive treatment.
It was the Bush administration that opened the prison in Guantanamo that has been one of the greatest terrorist recruitment assistants in the modern world, largely because the US tortured the prisoners at that facility and held many who had done nothing wrong or adverse to US interests. Earlier this year, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said that the Guantanamo prison “has become an ideal recruitment tool for terrorists.”
In an April article in The Atlantic magazine, Thérèse Postel, a policy associate in international affairs at The Century Foundation, wrote: “Guantanamo Bay has often been the focus of jihadist media and propaganda. . . . Guantanamo Bay has become a salient issue used in jihadist propaganda.” Of course, the jihadist use of Guantanamo as a recruiting tool can now be attributed to the Obama administration, which is responsible for the prosecution of Manning. Irony and hypocrisy know no bounds when it comes to government tyranny and abuse of power.
And we should never forget the “black site” prisons located in strategic places around the globe where US prisoners were tortured at will (and still are). In 2005, the Washington Post reported: “The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement. . . . The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.”
Other black sites have been identified as located in Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco. CIA interrogators in such overseas sites used “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques,” some of which are prohibited by the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and by U.S. military law. Among the techniques used is “waterboarding,” in which a prisoner is made to believe he is drowning. For a time, waterboarding became a household word in the US and around the world as the morality of the practice was debated. Although the US is a party to the U. N. Convention, it has blatantly violated it, giving more reasons for Al Qaeda to attract new jihadist recruits.
One of the most destructive actions to US interests are the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, known widely as drones, which can be armed with weapons to kill enemies. They have been used by the US since 2001 when they were launched from Uzbekistan and Pakistan. One of the unfortunate effects of drone use has been the killing of civilians in large numbers. Attacks have been launched from drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. In 2009, a report from the Brookings Institute said that ten civilians are killed for every militant killed in Pakistan drone attacks. Pakistani authorities have claimed that in 2009 alone, over 700 innocent civilians were killed by drone attacks and many more injured.
Armed drone use has grown dramatically since drones were first employed by the Bush administration. The killing of civilians by drones is widely acknowledged as a significant recruiting tool for Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups.
If “the killing of civilians might rally people behind the cause of Al Qaeda,” then the worst perpetrator of actions that might harm US interests is the government of the US. Of course, the government will not prosecute itself for aiding the enemy, but it will torture and punish low-level personnel like Bradley Manning for actions that it claims do what it has done. But we know that governments can be far worse than what I. F. Stone said about them – that all governments lie. We know, if we pay attention, that the US government is duplicitous, sanctimonious, and deceitful, as well as given to lying on a regular basis.
© Lamar W. Hankins, Freethought San Marcos
LAMAR W. HANKINS is a former San Marcos city attorney.Email | Print