A few sceptical voices in the Occupy Handbook point out that many of the 99 per cent are perhaps not so different from the 1 per cent as they imagine. Though they haven’t got as much money, they have enough for their life experiences to be comparable: they like comfort, and convenience, and they want their children to have these things too. Their experience of genuine deprivation is limited, though their fear of it is real enough. They deride the very rich but also quite like reading about them. They do not deride the very poor, but they do not like reading about them. Stiglitz sees no apparent anomaly in the fact that his rallying cry for Occupy Wall Street appeared in the pages of Vanity Fair, a magazine that expertly straddles the 99 per cent/1 per cent divide. Its politics are for the 99 per cent – Bush was a monstrous deceiver, Obama is making the best of a bad job etc – but the world it depicts is that of the 1 per cent, in all its excitement and variety (movie stars and bankers, heiresses and humanitarians). It is both naive and irresponsible to assume that the political representation of ideas is untouched by the pictorial representation of glamour.
In the one case where [Obama] took a major political risk to try a high-profile al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist in federal court, his decision ended badly. In late 2009, on the recommendation of Attorney General Holder, Obama ordered Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the bin Laden ally who masterminded the September 11 attacks, transferred from Guantánamo to stand trial in the Southern District of New York. Republicans accused Obama of going soft and whipped up a political backlash that forced the president to retreat; Mohammed is now facing a trial before a military commission at Guantánamo.
In planning for Abbottabad, White House lawyers would almost certainly have assured Obama that it would be legal to kill bin Laden outright. The “Authorization for the Use of Military Force” enacted by Congress a week after the September 11 attacks provided for the use of deadly force against al-Qaeda’s leaders. Also, under international and American laws arising from the rights of self-defense, if a terrorist is actively planning deadly operations, it can be legal to strike first. We know from White House disclosures that Obama seriously considered bombing the Abbottabad compound to smithereens. He demurred out of concern that it might not be clear after the attack whether bin Laden had been there at all. Yet if the president had decided on bombing, he would surely have justified his decision by pointing to the principles of self-defense, just as he uses this doctrine to justify the dozens of drone strikes he has authorized against suspected militants in countries where the United States is not formally at war.
The Abbottabad raid, as it was ultimately designed, seems to have brought into play different questions of international and American law concerning the requirement of soldiers to accept surrenders when they are offered. Having chosen to go in on the ground, Obama evidently did not wish to design a mission that precluded the theoretical possibility that bin Laden might surrender. Instead, he approved rules of engagement that made bin Laden’s surrender all but impossible.
As the SEALs prepared, Bissonnette writes, a lawyer from either the Department of Defense or the White House instructed them, speaking of bin Laden, “If he is naked with his hands up, you’re not going to engage him. I’m not going to tell you how to do your job. What we’re saying is if he does not pose a threat, you will detain him.” Klaidman, too, quotes a Pentagon official as saying, after the fact, “The only way bin Laden was going to be taken alive was if he was naked, had his hands in the air, was waving a white flag, and was unambiguously shouting, ‘I surrender.’”
What if, however improbably, bin Laden had done this? Obama’s team apparently planned to hold him on a US Navy ship at sea for a number of weeks and interrogate him about any active terrorist plots he might know about. After that, the administration probably would have shipped bin Laden to Guantánamo, reversing its policy to accept no new prisoners at that discredited facility.
This fantastical-sounding plan reflects upon the broader counterterrorism system’s current paralysis over the detention of suspects. Klaidman describes a telling example, little examined, that occurred at the same time as the Obama administration planned for Abbottabad. On April 19, 2011, Navy SEALs boarded a fishing boat in the Gulf of Aden and arrested Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, a British-educated, alleged liaison between the al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen and al-Shabab, the militant group in Somalia. Warsame was an alleged gunrunner who knew about transnational terrorism plots; he was also “the first significant terrorist captured overseas since Obama had become president,” as Klaidman reports.
The SEALs transferred Warsame to the USS Boxer, which had been “outfitted as a kind of floating prison.” For the next two months—before and after the Abbottabad raid—the White House held “no less than a dozen secret principals or deputies meetings to resolve the case.”
They could not decide what to do with Warsame, however. If they put him on trial in federal court in New York, they would invite a repeat of the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed debacle, on the cusp of an election year. Yet if they put Warsame on trial before a military commission in a navy brig or at Guantánamo, they would signal to “the left and civil libertarians that the administration had given up on its commitment to using civilian courts to enforce the laws against terrorists…. It was no accident that Warsame was Obama’s only major capture,” Klaidman concludes, because the prolonged stalemate about what to do with him proved the rule that killing terrorist suspects was much easier than shouldering the political risks of putting them on trial.
In the end, the Obama administration secretly held Warsame at sea for seventy days, then transferred him to face criminal trial in New York federal court. As Brennan put it during the final deliberations, after Abbottabad, according to Klaidman: “We’ve proved we can kill terrorists. Now we have to prove we can capture them consistent with our values.”
Klaidman judges the outcome “textbook Obama…nuanced and lawyerly.” But the nuances obscure an obvious conclusion: the Obama administration’s terrorist-targeting and detention system is heavily biased toward killing, inconsonant with constitutional and democratic principles, and unsustainable. The president has become personally invested in a system of targeted killing of dozens of suspected militants annually by drone strikes and Special Forces raids where the legal standards employed to designate targets for lethal action or to review periodic reports of mistakes are entirely secret.
The CIA organised a fake vaccination programme in the town where it believed Osama bin Laden was hiding in an elaborate attempt to obtain DNA from the fugitive al-Qaida leader's family, a Guardian investigation has found.
It is not known exactly how the doctor hoped to get DNA from the vaccinations [...] It is also not known whether the CIA managed to obtain any Bin Laden DNA, although one source suggested the operation did not succeed.
The point man’s shots had entered the right side of [bin Laden’s] head. Blood and brains spilled out of the side of his skull. In his death throes, he was still twitching and convulsing. Another assaulter and I trained our lasers on his chest and fired several rounds. The bullets tore into him, slamming his body into the floor until he was motionless.
“O.K., this is a probability thing,” said Obama. “Leon, talk to me about this.” The director explained that following the agency’s erroneous conviction, a decade earlier, that Saddam Hussein had been hiding weapons of mass destruction—a finding that was used to justify a long and costly war—the C.I.A. had instituted an almost comically elaborate process for weighing certainty. It was like trying to craft a precise formula for good judgment. Analysts up and down the chain were now asked not only to give their opinion but also to place a confidence level on it—high, medium, or low. Then they were required to explain why they had assigned that level. What you ended up with, as the president was discovering, was more confusion.
If anyone thinks this is superficial, or that the Seal dudes could have refrained from plugging OSB in the head, well I would invite you to pilot 2 helicopters into what is essentially enemy territory, crash one, infiltrate an armed compound, find your man, and somehow avoid defending yourself and successfully completing the mission. -- KokuRyu
I don't know about how stupid other people are, I can only speak for myself (I'm not an American - in your book, does that make me smarter?) but it seems plausible to me that these fuckwads are targeting the States based on some muddy, illogical ideology, rather than as a result of some sort of American foreign policy. -- KokuRyu
isn't it a bit of a myth that it was the Americans that supported these corrupt regimes? -- KokuRyu
Keystone XL is NOT going to be built because tar sands output dangerous levels of carbon into the atmosphere resulting in disruptive global weather patterns which cost billions of dollars of damage annually. -- twoleftfeet
The main takeaway I got from his narrative of the raid is they were in an active firefight and were killing anyone who looked threatening. Dark house, chaotic situation with a lot of people some of whom were shooting at them, they simply killed all the men they saw. They apparently didn't see women and children as much of a threat, which surprised me a bit. -- Nelson
“One of the things you learn as president is you’re always dealing with probabilities,” he told me. “No issue comes to my desk that is perfectly solvable. No issue comes to my desk where there’s 100 percent confidence that this is the right thing to do. Because if people were absolutely certain then it would have been decided by someone else. And that’s true in dealing with the economic crisis. That’s true in order to take a shot at a pirate. That’s true about most of the decisions I make during the course of the day.
But I don't really believe that someone would make a critical decision of this kind with those odds. I think the President had a lot more data upon which to base his decision. I suspect that the writer described the decision in this manner to portray Obama as a bold and decisive leader, one who is willing to gamble in spite of the odds, which in all likelihood were nowhere near "50-50".
delmoi, you talk out of your ass and quote Wikipedia so much, it's really quite amusing to be called "ignorant" by you!
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