And yet – as the New York Times reports – the Taliban are as widespread and strong now as they were before we launched the war:
The Taliban insurgency has spread through more of Afghanistan than at any point since 2001, according to data compiled by the United Nations as well as interviews with numerous local officials in areas under threat.
The United Nations data suggests that the tempo of the insurgency has increased in many parts of the country where there had been little Taliban presence in the past, including some areas in the north with scant Pashtun populations.
“We have had fighting in 13 provinces of Afghanistan over the past six months, simultaneously,” President Ashraf Ghani said this month in response to criticism after the fall of Kunduz.
In all, 27 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces had some districts where the threat level was rated high or extreme.
Indeed, the strength of the Taliban may conceivably now be even higher than in 2001. Specifically, the Times notes:
The data [was] compiled in early September — even before the latest surge in violence in northern Afghanistan ….
One of the central themes of my book is that that too many cops today have been conditioned to see the people they serve not as citizens with rights, but as an enemy. My argument is that this battlefield mindset is the product of a generation of politicians telling police that they’re at war with things — drugs, terrorism, crime, etc. — and have then equipped them with the uniforms, tactics, weapons, and other accoutrements of war.
One essay by Sgt. Glenn French was particularly disturbing. French serves as commander of a SWAT team in Sterling Heights, Michigan. French doesn’t criticize me for arguing that too many police officers have adopted this battlefield mindset. Rather, he embraces the combat mentality, and encourages other cops to do the same. Referring to an article I wrote here at HuffPost, French writes:
“What would it take to dial back such excessive police measures?” the author wrote. “The obvious place to start would be ending the federal grants that encourage police forces to acquire gear that is more appropriate for the battlefield. Beyond that, it is crucial to change the culture of militarization in American law enforcement.”
We trainers have spent the past decade trying to ingrain in our students the concept that the American police officer works a battlefield every day he patrols his sector.
Note the choice of words. Not neighborhood, but “sector.” Although I suppose such parsing isn’t even necessary when French just comes right out and declares America a battlefield. Note too that French isn’t even referring to SWAT teams, here. He’s suggesting that all cops be taught to view the streets and neighborhoods they patrol in this way.
French then tosses out some dubious statistics.
The fact is, more American police officers have died fighting crime in the United States over the past 12 years than American soldiers were killed in action at war in Afghanistan. According to ODMP.org, 1,831 cops have been killed in the line of duty since 2001. According to iCasualties.org, the number of our military personnel killed in action in Afghanistan is 1,789.
Cops on the beat are facing the same dangers on the streets as our brave soldiers do in war.
Even accepting French’s preposterous premise here, his numbers are wrong. The U.S. has lost 2,264 troops in Afghanistan, about 22 percent more than French claims. Moreover, more than half police officer deaths since 2001 were due to accidents (mostly car accidents), not felonious homicide. Additionally, depending on how you define the term, there are between 600,000 and 800,000 law enforcement officers working in the United States. We have about 65,000 troops in Afghanistan. So comparing overall fatalities is absurd. The rates of cops killed versus soldiers killed aren’t even close. And that’s not factoring in the soldiers who’ve come home without limbs. The dangers faced by cops and soldiers in Afghanistan aren’t remotely comparable.
As I’ve pointed out before, the actual homicide rate for cops on the job, while higher than that in the country as a whole, is still lower than the rate in about half of the larger cities in America. If cops on the beat face “the same dangers on the streets as our brave soldiers do in war,” so does everyone who lives in Boston, Atlanta, or Dallas.
That is why commanders and tactical trainers stress the fact that even on the most uneventful portion of your tour, you can be subjected to combat at a moment’s notice.
I think French’s choice of words in this passage speaks for itself.
What is it with this growing concept that SWAT teams shouldn’t exist? Why shouldn’t officers utilize the same technologies, weapon systems, and tactics that our military comrades do?
We should, and we will.
Again, it’s hard to even respond to this. You’re either alarmed to hear this kind of language from a domestic police officer, or you aren’t. And if you aren’t, I don’t think there’s much I can write to convince you otherwise. I highlight it here only to point out that it is indeed a domestic police officer who wrote this. I’ve been criticized at times for making the argument that too many cops in America today see their jobs in this way — that I’m exaggerating when I write or say that some cops see American streets as war zones. Well, here it is.
Black helicopters and mysterious warriors exist. They are America’s answer to the evil men that the anti-SWAT crowd wouldn’t dare face.
The second sentence is undoubtedly true. I’m not opposed to SWAT teams. When used properly — to defuse an already violent situation, where lives are at risk — they perform marvelously. I am opposed to using them to raid organic farms in response to nuisance violations, or to storm animal shelters to kill baby deer. Or, more to the point, to serve search warrants on people suspected of consensual drug crimes, the reason for the vast majority of the 100+ SWAT raids conducted each day in America.
One could argue that French is merely one cop, and there’s no evidence that his essay, alarming as it may be, is representative of any significant percentage of law enforcement officials. The problem is that his essay appeared on PoliceOne, one of the most popular police destinations on the Internet. It’s a part of a series of essays that the editors of that site chose to run in response to my book. If French’s perspective isn’t representative of a significant portion of law enforcement, it’s difficult to see why PoliceOne would have chosen to run it. At the very least, the editors don’t appear to have found it objectionable enough to exclude from the series.
It’s also worth noting that French trains other police officers. He has also written a book on policing. So his perspective and approach to the job is getting passed on to other officers. Moreover, there’s ample anecdotal evidence that plenty of other law enforcement officials share his perspective. Here, for example, is the sheriff of Clayton County, Georgia in 2008:
Last week the Taliban opened an office in Doha, Qatar with the US government’s blessing. They raised the Taliban flag at the opening ceremony and referred to Afghanistan as the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” – the name they used when they were in charge before the US attack in 2001.
The US had meant for the Taliban office in Doha to be only a venue for a new round of talks on an end to the war in Afghanistan. The Taliban opening looked very much like a government in exile. The Karzai government was annoyed that the US and the Taliban had scheduled talks without even notifying Kabul. Karzai’s government felt as irrelevant to negotiations on post-war Afghanistan as they soon will be on the ground. It seemed strangely like Paris in 1968, where the US met with North Vietnamese representatives to negotiate a way out of that war, which claimed nearly 60,000 Americans and many times that number of Vietnamese lives.
For years many of us had argued the need to get out of Afghanistan. To end the fighting, the dying, the destruction, the nation-building. To end the foolish fantasy that we were building a Western-style democracy there. We cannot leave, we were told for all those years. If we leave Afghanistan now, the Taliban will come back! Well guess what, after 12 years, trillions of dollars, more than 2,200 Americans killed, and perhaps more than 50,000 dead Afghan civilians and fighters, the Taliban is coming back anyway!
The long US war in Afghanistan never made any sense in the first place. The Taliban did not attack the US on 9/11. The Authorization for the use of force that we passed after the attacks of 9/11 said nothing about a decade-long occupation of Afghanistan. But unfortunately two US presidents have taken it to mean that they could make war anywhere at any time they please. Congress, as usual, did nothing to rein in the president, although several Members tried to repeal the authorization.
Afghanistan brought the Soviet Union to its knees. We learned nothing from it.
We left Iraq after a decade of fighting and the country is in far worse shape than when we attacked in 2003. After trillions of dollars wasted and tens of thousands of lives lost, Iraq is a devastated, desperate, and violent place with a presence of al Qaeda. No one in his right mind speaks of a US victory in Iraq these days. We learned nothing from it.
We are leaving Afghanistan after 12 years with nothing to show for it but trillions of dollars wasted and thousands of lives lost. Afghanistan is a devastated country with a weak, puppet government – and now we negotiate with those very people we fought for those 12 years, who are preparing to return to power! Still we learn nothing.
Instead of learning from these disasters brought about by the interventionists and their failed foreign policy, the president is now telling us that we have to go into Syria!
US Army Col. Harry Summers told a story about a meeting he had with a North Vietnamese colonel named Tu while he visiting Hanoi in 1975. At the meeting, Col. Summers told Tu, “You know, you never defeated us on the battlefield.” Tu paused for a moment, then replied, “That may be so. But it is also irrelevant.”
Sadly, that is the story of our foreign policy. We have attacked at least five countries since 9/11. We have launched drones against many more. We have deposed several dictators and destroyed several foreign armies. But, looking around at what has been achieved, it is clear: it is all irrelevant.
Cindy Sheehan and others are in the beginning stages of planning a bike ride from Casey Sheehan’s grave in Vacaville, Ca to WashedUp, DeCeit (Washington, DC) to demand true and positive change. The ride will begin on the day that Casey was KIA in Iraq (April 04)and end in DeCeit on July 3rd.
We are hoping that MANY riders will join us for all or part of the way, but especially join us for a convergence atArlington Cemetery on July 3rd, to ride on the White House to present our demands. We are also hoping that activists and groups along the way will sponsor meetings, rallies (with vegetarian potlucks), comfy beds, and support, to help us organize for PEACE, to help us to raise money to help fund the tour AND raise money for good causes to help the devastated people of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Become a part of this amazing action
Go to the Get Involved Page and tell us how you can participate
An American soldier at Bagram air base: the US recently suspended the transfer of new detainees because of apparent disagreements with Kabul. Photograph: Staff/Reuters/Corbis
For several decades, the US government – in annual “human rights” reports issued by the State Department (reports mandated by the US Congress) – has formally condemned nations around the globe for the practice of indefinite detention: imprisoning people without charges or any fixed sentence. These reports, said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her preface to last year’s document, are grounded in the principle that “respect for human rights is not a western construct or a uniquely American ideal; it is the foundation for peace and stability everywhere.” That 2011 report condemned numerous nations for indefinite detention, including Libya (“abuse and lack of review in detention”), Uzbekistan (“arbitrary arrest and detention”), Syria (“arbitrary arrest and detention”), and Iran (“Authorities held detainees, at times incommunicado, often for weeks or months without charge or trial”).
In Afghanistan and Iraq, the US government is engaged in a fierce and protracted battle over the fundamental right to be free of indefinite detention. Specifically, the US is demanding that the governments of those two nations cease extending this right to their citizens. As a Washington Post article this morning details, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is insisting that the US fulfill its commitment to turn over all prisons, including the notorious facility at Bagram, to Afghan control, but here is one major impediment [emphasis added]:
“Afghan and U.S. officials have also disagreed on the issue of detention without trial. Washington wants the Afghan government to continue holding certain prisoners it views as dangerous, even if there is not enough evidence to try them.
“Aimal Faizi, the chief spokesman for Karzai, told reporters Monday that detention without trial is illegal in Afghanistan and that more than 50 Afghans are still being held in U.S. custody at Bagram, 35 miles northeast of Kabul, even though they have been ordered released by Afghan courts.”
The US has long been demanding that the Afghan government continue the American practice of indefinite detention without charges, and still presses this demand even after the top Afghan court in September ruled that such detentions violate Afghan law. Human rights workers in Afghanistan have long pointed out that America’s practice of imprisoning Afghans without charges is a major source of anti-American sentiment in the country. In a 2009 interview, Jonathan Horowitz of the Open Society Institute told me: “The majority of the people who I have spoken to cite the way that the US captures and detains people as their main complaint against the US, second only to civilian casualties.”
This US-Afghan battle over basic due process has extended beyond detention policies. In 2009, the Obama administration’s plan to assassinate certain Afghan citizens it suspected of being “drug kingpins” – with no charges, trial or any other due process – sparked intense objections from Afghan officials. Those officials tried to teach Obama officials such precepts as: “There is a constitutional problem here. A person is innocent unless proven guilty,” and: “if you go off to kill or capture them, how do you prove that they are really guilty in terms of legal process?”, and: “[The Americans] should respect our law, our constitution and our legal codes. We have a commitment to arrest these people on our own.”
“In a phone call on Tuesday, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. told the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, that the United States believed that Mr. Daqduq should be held accountable for his actions and that Iraq should explore all legal options toward this end, an American official said. . . .
“But Mr. Maliki told Mr. Biden that Iraq had run out of legal options to hold Mr. Daqduq, who this year had been ordered released by an Iraqi court. . . . Iraqi officials have said that they thought delaying Mr. Daqduq’s release until after the American presidential election would mollify the Obama administration. American officials have repeatedly insisted that they did not want him released at all . . . .
“After Mr. Daqduq was transferred to Iraqi custody, an Iraqi court ruled that there was not enough evidence to hold him.”
US efforts to persuade the Iraqi government to transfer him to US custody for “trial” in a US “military commission” – where he would likely be detained either at Guantanamo or a specially created military brig in South Carolina – were previously rejected by the Iraqis on the ground that they have sovereignty over acts committed in Iraq and would honor the decisions of their courts. US claims that the release of Daqduq is the by-product of Iraqi closeness to the Iranians (rather than respect for due process) may well be accurate, but that does not make ongoing imprisonment in defiance of a court finding any more justified.
It is ironic indeed that the US is demanding that the practice of due-process-free indefinite detention be continued in Afghanistan and Iraq, two countries it invaded and then occupied while claiming it wanted to bring freedom and democracy there. But on one level, this is the only outcome that makes sense, as a denial of basic due process is now a core, defining US policy in general.
The Obama administration not only continues to imprison people without charges of any kind, but intended from the start to do so even if their plan to relocate Guantanamo onto US soil had not been thwarted by Congress. At the end of 2011, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act which codifies the power of indefinite detention even for US citizens, and – after an Obama-appointed federal judge struck it down as unconstitutional – continues vigorously to fight for that law. And, of course, the power to assassinate even its own citizens without a whiff of due process or transparency – the policy that so upset Afghan officials when it was proposed for their country – is a crowning achievement of the Obama legacy.
It’s hardly unusual, of course, for the US government self-righteously to impose principles on the world which it so flamboyantly violates. Indeed, such behavior is so common as to barely be worth noting.
Just this week, President Obama managed with a straight face to defend Israel’s attacks on Gaza with this decree: “there’s no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.” As Liliana Segura, Jemima Khan and Reason’s Mike Riggs all quickly noted, this pronouncement came from the same man who has continuously rained down missiles on the citizens of Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other countries. Meanwhile, UN Ambassador Susan Rice took to Twitter last night to denouncechanges to a draft UN resolution that condemns “extrajudicial killing” – even as her own nation and its closest Middle East ally continue as the global leaders of this practice.
Still, there’s something particularly revealing about the US demanding that the governments of Afghanistan and Iraq abandon any commitment they are attempting to develop (albeit quite selectively) to basic due process rights and instead imprison anyone the US wants imprisoned – even in the absence of evidence of their guilt and even in the face of judicial findings that their detention is without evidence and unlawful. As it turns out after all, the US is indeed spreading its core values to those two nations, though those values have nothing to do with freedom and democracy except to the extent that they are the primary impediments to achieving it.
A transcript has been posted of the keynote speech I gave on Saturday night – on civil liberties, the Constitution and Islamophobia – to CAIR’s annual event in the Bay Area. Those interested can find that here.
Also, there is what appears to be a happy ending to the case I wrote about two weeks of the US Muslim and Air Force veteran living in Qatar, Saddiq Long, who was barred by the US government – for unstated reasons and with no due process – from flying into his own country to visit his extremely sick mother. As his CAIR lawyers announced, Long, on Sunday night, was permitted to board a Delta Airlines flight to the US and is now in Oklahoma with his mother. Let us hope that he has no difficulty when he attempts to fly back to Qatar, where his family and job await
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – The roars celebrating the re-election of U.S. President Barack Obama on television give Mohammad Rehman Khan a searing headache, as years of grief and anger come rushing back.
The 28-year-old Pakistani accuses the president of robbing him of his father, three brothers and a nephew, all killed in a U.S. drone aircraft attack a month after Obama first took office.
“The same person who attacked my home has gotten re-elected,” he told Reuters in the capital, Islamabad, where he fled after the attack on his village in South Waziristan, one of several ethnic Pashtun tribal areas on the Afghan border.
“Since yesterday, the pressure on my brain has increased. I remember all of the pain again
In his re-election campaign, Obama gave no indication he would halt or alter the drone program, which he embraced in his first term to kill al-Qaida and Taliban militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan without risking American lives.
Drone strikes are highly unpopular among many Pakistanis, who consider them a violation of sovereignty that cause unacceptable civilian casualties.
“Whenever he has a chance, Obama will bite Muslims like a snake. Look at how many people he has killed with drone attacks,” said Haji Abdul Jabar, whose 23-year-old son was killed in such a bombing.
Analysts say anger over the unmanned aircraft may have helped the Taliban gain recruits, complicating efforts to stabilize the unruly border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. That could also hinder Obama’s plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2014.
Just one in 50 victims of America’s deadly drone strikes in Pakistan are terrorists – while the rest are innocent civilians, a new report claimed today.
The authoritative joint study, by Stanford and New York Universities, concludes that men, women and children are being terrorised by the operations ’24 hours-a-day’.
And the authors lay much of the blame on the use of the ‘double-tap’ strike where a drone fires one missile – and then a second as rescuers try to drag victims from the rubble. One aid agency said they had a six-hour delay before going to the scene.
The tactic has cast such a shadow of fear over strike zones that people often wait for hours before daring to visit the scene of an attack. Investigators also discovered that communities living in fear of the drones were suffering severe stress and related illnesses. Many parents had taken their children out of school because they were so afraid of a missile-strike.
Bombardment: More than 345 strikes have hit Pakistan’s tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan in the past eight years
Today campaigners savaged the use of drones, claiming that they were destroying a way of life.
Clive Stafford Smith, director of the charity Reprieve which helped interview people for the report, said: ‘This shows that drone strikes go much further than simply killing innocent civilians. An entire region is being terrorised by the constant threat of death from the skies. ‘
There have been at least 345 strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan in the past eight years.
‘These strikes are becoming much more common,’ Mirza Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who represents victims of drone strikes, told The Independent.
‘In the past it used to be a one-off, every now and then. Now almost every other attack is a double tap. There is no justification for it.’
The study is the product of nine months’ research and more than 130 interviews, it is one of the most exhaustive attempts by academics to understand – and evaluate – Washington’s drone wars.
The site of a missile attack in Tappi, a village 12 miles east of Miranshah, near the Afghan border after a U.S. missile attack by a pilotless drone aircraft in 2008. At least six people were killed
Tribesmen gather near a damaged car outside a house after a missile struck in Dandi Darpakheil village on the outskirts of Miranshah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal region
VOICES FROM THE DRONE ZONE
Sadaullah Khan, a 15-year-old who lost both legs in a drone strike, says that before his injury, ‘I used to go to school…I thought I would become a doctor. After the drone strikes, I stopped going to school.’
Noor Behram, a journalist: ‘Once there has been a drone strike, people have gone in for rescue missions, and five or ten minutes after the drone attack, they attack the rescuers who are there.’
Taxi driver: ‘Whether we are driving a car, or we are working on a farm, or we are sitting at home playing cards – no matter what we are doing we are always thinking the drone will strike us. So we are scared to do anything, no matter what.’
Safdar Dawar, President of the Tribal Union of Journalists: ‘If I am walking in the market, I have this fear that maybe the person walking next to me is going to be a target of the drone. If I’m shopping, I’m really careful and scared. If I’m standing on the road and there is a car parked next to me, I never know if that is going to be the target. Maybe they will target the car in front of me or behind me. Even in mosques, if we’re praying, we’re worried that maybe one person who is standing with us praying is wanted. So, wherever we are, we have this fear of drones.’
Resident from the Manzar Khel area: ‘Now (they have) even targeted funerals…they have targeted people sitting together, so people are scared of everything’
Despite assurances the attacks are ‘surgical’, researchers found barely two per cent of their victims are known militants and that the idea that the strikes make the world a safer place for the U.S. is ‘ambiguous at best’.
Researchers added that traumatic effects of the strikes go far beyond fatalities, psychologically battering a population which lives under the daily threat of annihilation from the air, and ruining the local economy.
They conclude by calling on Washington completely to reassess its drone-strike programme or risk alienating the very people they hope to win over.
They also observe that the strikes set worrying precedents for extra-judicial killings at a time when many nations are building up their unmanned weapon arsenals.
The Obama administration is unlikely to heed their demands given the zeal with which America has expanded its drone programme over the past two years.
Washington says the drone program is vital to combating militants that threaten the U.S. and who use Pakistan’s tribal regions as a safe haven.
The number of attacks have fallen since a Nato strike in 2011 killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and strained U.S.-Pakistan relations.
Pakistan wants the drone strikes stopped – or it wants to control the drones directly – something the U.S. refuses.
Reapers and Predators are now active over the skies of Somalia and Yemen as well as Pakistan and – less covertly – Afghanistan.
But campaigners like Mr Akbar hope the Stanford/New York University research may start to make an impact on the American public.
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