Iranian-American Dual Loyalty, continued

The campaign against the National Iranian-American Council and its president, Trita Parsi, intensified today with the publication of a long hit piece in the Washington Times by neoconservative journalist Eli Lake. The piece’s unusual length appears to be an attempt to disguise the thinness of the allegations it contains. Most of the claims are based on hearsay and speculation, and only two-thirds of the way through the meandering 3000-word article does Lake actually discuss whether any of the evidence actually shows that NIAC has lobbied for the Iranian government. At which point we get this brief sentence:

Two lawyers who read some of the same documents [on which the allegations are founded] said they did not provide enough evidence to conclude that Mr. Parsi was acting as a foreign agent.

One might be forgiven for thinking that this fact is relevant enough to be included in the first few paragraphs. Similarly, despite the thousands of pages of documents that were leaked to him, Lake is unable to show any evidence of a financial relationship between NIAC and the Iranian government. (It’s also worth noting that the question of whether NIAC engages in lobbying is separate from the question of whether it engages in lobbying on behalf of the Iranian government. Lake, who conflates the two questions, provides little evidence for the former and even less for the latter.) In any case, the question of whether any of the allegations might actually be true is then dropped, not to be pursued again for the remainder of the piece. Instead, we get bizarre fixations on facts like Parsi’s Swedish citizenship (which is about as relevant for his standing to work for an Iranian-American organization as Martin Indyk’s Australian citizenship was for his standing to work for an American Jewish organization.)

NIAC has issued a response giving background to Lake’s piece. The documents in question were provided by NIAC during the discovery phase of a lawsuit the group filed against journalist Hassan Daioleslam (or alternately, Hassan Dai) over allegations he made that NIAC was lobbying for Iran. So far the case has been going poorly for Daioleslam, with the judge denying his motion to dismiss the bulk of the charges; it seems plausible that the knowledge that he was likely to lose the case led Daioleslam to leak the documents in question to Lake as a Hail Mary. NIAC accuses him of trying “to litigate the case in the media rather than in a court of law.”

While it may be entertaining to indulge in this innuendo and speculation, we might shed more light on the question of whether NIAC lobbies for the Iranian regime by examining the organization’s actual actions. As I noted a few weeks ago, NIAC has taken a leading role in denouncing the regime’s crackdown on protesters, calling for new elections, and demanding that human rights issues be put on the engagement agenda. Furthermore, the group’s blog played a key role in disseminating information about this summer’s protests and their repression, much of it deeply damaging to the regime. To state the obvious, it is hard to see how these actions are consistent with a desire to further the regime’s interests. But perhaps Lake will explain to us how disseminating videos of the regime shooting and clubbing protesters is simply a cunning plot by the devious Parsi to win support for Ahmadinejad in Washington.

The campaign against NIAC should be seen for what it is — an attempt to delegitimate any Iranian-American voices that are insufficiently hawkish for the neocons’ liking. Hawks in Washington and Jerusalem are faced with the inconvenient fact that few Iranians, even those harshly critical of the regime, desire to see their country get bombed or invaded, or for Iran’s most vulnerable citizens to die under the weight of sanctions that do nothing to help the cause of the Green Movement. Hence the attempt to portray any Iranian who opposes sanctions or war as a stooge of the regime — and the hawks’ recent turn against the Iranian opposition itself, for refusing to play Chalabi and tell them what they want to hear. As the battle over Iran continues in Washington, it is likely that the attacks on NIAC and other dovish voices in the Iranian-American community are only going to get worse rather than better.

Gitmo 9/11 Suspects

Some thoughts on the Gitmo 9/11 suspects that are supposedly behind 9/11 and are due to come to New York for a civilian trial:

1. Why haven’t they been brought to trial years before now? We didn’t just discover that they were behind the attacks.
2. Why are we fighting in Iraq? If the ones behind 9/11 are in custody, why are we killing people in Iraq at the cost of more American lives than were killed on 9/11?
3. Why are we fighting in Afghanistan? If the ones behind 9/11 are in custody, why are we killing people in Iraq at the cost of more American lives than were killed on 9/11?
4. What about Osama bin Laden? I thought he was behind it all. Isn’t that why we went into Afghanistan?
5. Why are these men being tried and possibly facing the death penalty? The actual murderers perished in the planes they hijacked.

Am I excusing anything these men may have had to do with 9/11? Certainly not. But neither do I make excuses for the U.S. foreign policy that created terrorists.

Bagram to Get McChrystalized?

Satirist and entertainer Harry Shearer makes a good point today on HuffingtonPost.com:

When the Fox network staged a special Veterans’ Day version of its NFL pregame show at Bagram AF Base last Sunday, two hours was apparently not long enough to mention one interesting fact about Bagram: It’s the site of America’s other Gitmo, a prison where detainees have been kept for years outside the purview of U.S. law, outside even the scope of the Supreme Court’s habeas corpus decision on Gitmo detainees.

Interestingly, it was at Bagram that the only detainees (that we know of) to have died while in US custody were kept.

Well settle in Harry, because it seems that Bagram is about to get a little bit hotter.

According to Washington Independent writer Spencer Ackerman this week, Obama has been turning increasingly toward his special operations chiefs for his still-unknown but supposedly hardening Afghan strategy:

Two senior military officers from the shadowy world of Special Operations are playing a large and previously unreported role in shaping the Obama administration’s Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy, a move that underscores that the internal debate has moved past a rigid choice between expansive missions to provide security for Afghan civilians and narrowly tailored missions to find and kill terrorists.

Navy Vice Adm. William H. McRaven, the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command  (JSOC) at Ft. Bragg, N.C., and Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward, the deputy leader of the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., are attending and informing the strategy meetings that the White House began in September to refine its approach in Afghanistan. Both men have deep ties to Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in the war.

Apparently, Adm. Harward is headed to Bagram, and I think it is safe to say he won’t be there to win over any hearts and minds:

In a move signaling his own importance to McChrystal, Harward will arrive in Afghanistan later this month to command a new task force, known as Task Force 435, that will take charge of detention facilities in Afghanistan, “primarily the new one at Bagram that will open this month,” Sholtis said. (snip)

McChrystal’s strategy recommended creating a new command, which Harward will now lead, of “approximately 120 personnel” focused on “defeat[ing] the insurgency through intelligence collection and analysis,” prisoner de-radicalization, and working with the Afghan corrections apparatus to “employ best correctional practices [and] comply with Afghan laws.”

One cannot read this without being reminded of McChrystal’s own secret special operations task force in Iraq — Task Force 121 — which engaged in reportedly brutal interrogation techniques of prisoners at key undisclosed locations, one of them bearing the endearing nickname of Camp Nama (Nasty-Ass Military Area):

In 2006, Human Rights Watch released a major report based on dozens of interviews with soldiers who had witnessed the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. “No Blood, No Foul” revealed that the elite forces conducting the interrogations at Camp Nama and two other locations, known (among other names) as Task Force 121, committed systematic abuse of prisoners at other facilities across Iraq, leading to at least three deaths. Whether or not he was present during the actual abuse — and it seems unlikely that he would need or want to put himself in that exposed position — as commander of JSOC, Stanley McChrystal oversaw them.

It appears the Obama administration may be trying to have it both ways  — engaging in a COIN operation in which the protection of the population supposedly “comes first,” and then unleashing commandos all over Pashstunistan and across the border into Pakistan to try and lay waste to the insurgency, which just so happens to be threaded through the rural civilian population there. Of course, conventional wisdom now says  this cocktail of mixed and opposing messages and missions “worked” in Iraq, so why not try it again?

The Itch in Joe Lieberman’s Gitmo Finger

Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut may be the most destructive politician in the United States. Combining the worst ideas of the right, the left, and the religious, he essentially seeks to punitively tax the world in order to bomb it for the sake of Israel. Despite Lieberman’s “dual” loyalty — in quotes because I suspect he’s truly only loyal to the Jewish State — the voters of Connecticut chose him to represent them in Congress even though his own Democratic Party booted him off their ticket in favor of a pro-peace candidate.

Comfortable advocating mass murder with that creepy smile under both Bush and Obama, in light of the Fort Hood massacre, Lieberman seems to be primarily concerned not with PTSD and mental health issues in the armed forces in general, not with internecine abuse in Army ranks, not with whether or not the military should let go of conscientious objectors before they literally go ballistic, but whether or not Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s crazed actions could be technically classified as (Islamic) terrorism. Muslims in the military are rightly on edge.

As Maj. Hasan’s beliefs likely influenced, in part, his actions, so do Sen. Lieberman’s. Watch out Nidal, the senator from Connecticut has his own jihad, and his Gitmo finger is itchy.

German DM Mentions the War… in Afghanistan

An outrageous thing has happened today in Germany: the Defense Minister has used the word “war” to describe the, uh, war in Afghanistan. As Justin Raimondo might say: Germans are shocked — shocked! You see, these people burdened by national collective memories of WWII thought they were sending peacekeepers to Afghanistan — sure, sure, armed to the teeth and swathed in armor, but still, I mean, the UN approves. And now this bad man tells them it’s a war over there.

But DM Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg is still within acceptable boundaries of discourse, as he technically said the fighting in Afghanistan was “war-like.” This keeps him in line with his predecessor Franz Josef Jung, fond of saying “this is not a war,” and that his soldiers are on a “mission for stability and the peaceful development of the nation.”

Aside from the general “revulsion for war” among Germans, there are practical concerns. Insurance carriers will not pay out for men killed in “war,” so in (I guess) an effort to save a few marks, the government classifies “war” as something that can only be carried out between sovereign states, and Afghan wedding parties apparently aren’t technically a country.

Guttenberg further clarified that the “war” label is used by his soldiers, those ignorants of the finer points of international law; to them “the Taliban is waging a war against the soldiers of the international community.”

Shame on the “Taliban” — code for anyone who dares to take up arms against foreign invaders in Afghanistan — for somehow teleporting their country under the feet of so many American and European troops and then having the gall to fight back when drone-bombed, and further, refusing to adopt a societal model that would give rise to a centralized European-style social democratic state! A backward civilization, indeed.