April 27, 2013 - No. 16

Combating Terrorism Act Receives Royal Assent

More Sweeping Powers for Security Agencies to
Engage in Black Ops and Act with Impunity

Combating Terrorism Act Receives Royal Assent
More Sweeping Powers for Security Agencies to Engage in Black Ops and
Act with Impunity

Law Used to Sanction Further State Terror and Impunity at Home and Abroad
- Philip Fernandez
What Is the Government Trying to Keep Secret? - Enver Villamizar

State Terror in the Name of High Ideals
Boston Bombing, Texas Explosion and the Danger of Police State Measures
- Buffalo Forum
Terrorist Attacks on the Boston Marathon -- Is American Exceptionalism
Dying on Life Support?
- Nathan J. Freeman
The Cluster Bombs of Boston and Drone Strikes of Yemen - Matthew Behrens
The Guantanamo Bay System of Indefinite Detention

Freedom for the Five Cuban Anti-Terrorists
Second "5 Days for the Cuban 5 in Washington, DC"

Combating Terrorism Act Receives Royal Assent

More Sweeping Powers for Security Agencies to Engage in Black Ops and Act with Impunity

On April 24 Bill S-7, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Security of Information Act, also known as the Combating Terrorism Act, was passed by the Harper government with the support of the Liberals by a vote of 183 to 93. Because it was first introduced in the Senate rather than the House of Commons, it was not required to return to the Senate for review. The next day it received Royal Assent and became law.

The final reading debate on the legislation on April 22 was accompanied by the Harper dictatorship's announcement that Canadian authorities, working closely with the FBI, had arrested two men suspected of conspiring to derail a Via Rail train on a section of train track between Toronto and New York. In this way the stage was set for a debate in the media on the obvious coincidence of the timing of the alleged plot and to justify the legislation. All of it has also served to divert attention from the sweeping arbitrary and secret powers the Harper dictatorship has given Canadian and U.S. security authorities.

The Combating Terrorism Act has two main aspects. The first is that it reestablishes the regime of preventative arrest under which Canadians can be held without charges based merely on suspicion, or the opinion of authorities that the person may have information about someone else they believe may be involved in terrorist activity. For example, under the law, a person can now be held for up to 12 months without charge based on the suspicion that they may have in the past, or might in the future commit terrorist activity or be involved in terrorist activity. It also gives the state the power to hold a person who authorities believe may have information about someone who they believe may be involved in terrorist activity for up to 90 days if they refuse to comply, or guarantee that they will testify. Finally, it permits authorities to arrest someone who they believe is going to leave Canada with the intention of committing terrorist activity or supporting it.

The second aspect is that it makes it a crime to disclose state secrets, which the legislation does not define -- opening the door to any information the state declares an issue of national security being subject to the law. It legalizes the state's ability to keep all kinds of information related to terrorism charges and appeals secret from the people, especially as concerns the sources of information, opening the space for more use of state agents, agents provocateurs, and sting operations that create terrorist activity. The law includes new powers for the federal Attorney General to intervene in provincial courts to prevent provincial attorneys general from making public certain information the federal government does not want made public during trials.

It is noteworthy that in the debate at third reading, none of the leaders of any of the parties in the House of Commons spoke to the legislation, either for or against. The Conservatives had the Parliamentary Secretary of Public Safety, Candice Bergen, introduce debate on the legislation. While this debate was taking place in the House of Commons, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews issued a statement about the arrests of the two suspects in the alleged "Via Rail plot."

Toews declared that the arrests prove the necessity for whatever violation of rights the Harper government is enacting. "The first responsibility of any government is to ensure the safety and security of its citizens. Our government takes this responsibility very seriously and we have strengthened the legislative and operational framework of our security agencies to carry out that mandate," he said.

Protest against police wrong-doing at the G20 summit in Toronto, June 28, 2010.

"Today's arrests demonstrate that terrorism continues to be a real threat to Canada," Toews added, despite no evidence yet being provided, or the suspects even being brought before a judge. In this way, the arrests served to instill a sense of an impending attack on the basis of which further action can be justified, as in the case of the lock-down in Watertown after the Boston events.

Toews ended his remarks stating, "Our Government will continue to be vigilant and take the steps necessary to protect Canadians and their families, and our allies who share our common values." Why Canada would only seek to protect its allies and not all the countries and peoples of the world from terrorism also reveals the self-serving nature of the legislation. We are told in effect that the Harper government will not oppose terrorism when it serves its interests and those of U.S. imperialism. In other words, the government has no intention of actually trying to prevent terrorism, but has something else in mind. What that might be is not to be discussed. We are to believe that only supporters of terrorism or those who are soft on terrorism would question the government.

Changes at CSIS as New Anti-Terror Laws Put in Place

On April 23 the Prime Minister's Office announced the transfer of the head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Richard Fadden to the position of Deputy Minister of National Defence. Fadden's interim replacement at CSIS is Michel Coulombe, the service's Deputy Director of Operations. In May 2010, Coulombe reportedly told a parliamentary committee examining Afghan detainee abuse that Canadians would likely tolerate using intelligence gained by torture if it meant saving lives. According to research by Canadian Press reporter Jim Bronskill, Coulombe played a leading role in a high-level CSIS panel that decides whether intelligence has been obtained through torture, and if sharing such information with foreign intelligence services might result in further torture.

Also on April 23, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the appointment of Deborah Grey as a member of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC). SIRC "provides an external review of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service's performance of its duties and functions, and examines complaints by individuals or reports by ministers relating to security clearances and the national security of Canada."

Grey was the first Member of Parliament for the Reform Party of Canada, and Stephen Harper was her first legislative assistant.

The former Chair of SIRC from 2010-2011, Dr. Arthur Porter, has been in the news recently for charges relating to corruption in construction of the McGill mega hospital in Montreal. To date the Harper government has refused to take responsibility for nominating this corrupt individual to chair SIRC, claiming that other parties did not oppose the nomination.  He resigned from this post in 2011 when it was revealed he had ties to an Israeli businessman described in news reports as "a possible arms dealer, spy and consultant to dictators." Despite this, he was awarded the plum position of heading the mega project in Montreal.

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Law Used to Sanction Further State Terror and Impunity at Home and Abroad

On April 22, right at the time when Parliament was set to debate Bill S-7, the Combating Terrorism Act, the RCMP announced that working closely with the FBI and other U.S. secret police, it had foiled an alleged Iran-based al-Qaeda cell which had planned to bomb a VIA train on the Toronto-New York line. Two men, 30-year-old Chiheb Esseghair, a Tunisian-born resident and doctoral student, and 35-year-old Raed Jaser, a Palestinian national living in Canada for about two decades, were arrested. The RCMP admitted at the press conference that there were no definite plans for these attacks, but that they had been monitoring these two men since August of last year and that these individuals were "planning" such an attack.

Both men were arrested in Gestapo-style paramilitary operations -- Esseghair while he was eating in a McDonald's restaurant in Montreal's main train station, and Jaser at his workplace in Toronto. Why was this necessary after nine months of surveillance, if not to terrorize not only the accused but onlookers as well, and to "communicate" to the Canadian people that they are in imminent danger and therefore a police state is justified. The police forces can walk in at any time and arrest anyone the state wishes to target -- all in the name of ensuring the safety and security of Canadians. By implication, the victims of these crimes of the state are not Canadians. In the alleged "Via Rail" plot both men have stated that there is no proof of the allegations against them and that they would vigorously defend themselves in the courts. However, anti-terrorism legislation permits them to be held without charges and permits everything to be conducted in secret.

Project Thread victim Fahim Kayani and supporters in front of the Federal Court in Toronto, on the day of his final appeal to stay in the country and be exhonerated. His appeals were denied and he was ultimately deported shortly thereafter in the spring of 2004. (Project Threadbare)

The news of the arrests spread quickly over the monopoly media. The effect was to assault the sensibilities of the people and create a racist backlash against the Muslim community in general and the Palestinian resistance in particular, as well as against refugees who allegedly enter the country under false pretexts. This has been done before, as in the case of the 2003 arrest of 19 Muslim students from Pakistan and India living in the Greater Toronto Area -- a so-called al-Qaeda sleeper cell, in what the RCMP called Operation Thread. Sixteen were subsequently deported. Later it was shown that there was no basis for the arrests and that the state had fabricated the evidence. No apology or compensation was given to these young men for the assault on their basic human rights and the suffering they experienced both in Canada and after they were deported.

There is also the case of the so-called Toronto 18 in 2006, another group of national minority youth who were "entrapped" by the Canadian state which used two CSIS moles who were paid handsomely for their work. At the end, seven of the youth had their charges dropped because there was no case against them. They too were not compensated for their mistreatment and did not receive an apology from the police or the government. They will forever bear the burden of being a "terror suspect." Others "confessed" under blackmail to being involved in terrorist activity. They were told they would serve long prison sentences if they were to resist.

The timing of this latest arrest of Esseghair and Jaser, right after the terrorist attack in Boston, and the role of the FBI in both cases also shows how the FBI is being given an increasing role in Canada.

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What Is the Government Trying to Keep Secret?

Canadians should pause and soberly consider the new Combating Terrorism Act the Harper government has passed. The government and media have gone all out to use the state of anarchy and chaos created following the Boston bombings and the lock-down of that city to divide Canadians and prevent them from considering what is taking place and the aim of the new anti-terrorist laws passed by the Parliament.

One of the significant features of the new legislation is that it gives the government more powers to keep its actions secret. In cases that fall under the anti-terrorist law, once a person is accused of terrorist activity, supporting terrorist activity, or suspected of having information on terrorist activity, she or he falls under a regime in which the need for evidence and the right to conscience do not apply. This means that state agencies and covert operations have greater power to hide their role in sting operations in which the state itself is the one organizing and facilitating the illegal terrorist activities.

Canadians have seen that the Canadian state uses sting operations, undercover agents, and moles in fishing expeditions in which they promote terrorist actions to see who will bite. This was the case with the so-called Toronto 18 in which a paid CSIS agent had incited a number of youth in the Toronto area to do "jihad," organizing a training camp in northern Ontario, while CSIS facilitated the purchase of materials that could be used for bomb-making.

When people speak of the threat of "radicalization" it is precisely the state that operates to "radicalize" and then hide its hand after the fact. This new law entrenches hiding the role of the state use of black ops without which it is doubtful any illegal action would occur in the first place. If the state can hide its role, people are left to simply trust authorities to know and do what is best. In effect, the state and its security agencies have usurped control of the legal system to the extent that the Attorney General for Canada can intervene in provincial court proceedings to prevent information the state does not want made public even if a judge believes it is in the public interest to make it public.

It is also important to consider that the United States security apparatus is more and more operating in Canada both formally and informally. This is presented as security integration, when in effect Canadian security and military agencies are operating under U.S. command. In the case of the recent arrests in the alleged "Via Rail plot," the government admitted the FBI played a key role.The U.S. imperialists are well known for their use of sting operations that create terrorist activity which is then used to terrorize the population and criminalize organized resistance to state terror or simply try to make it impossible. Disinformation then declares that the people are willing to accepting any manner of violation of rights to keep themselves safe. The operation of these U.S. agencies in Canada is one of the things that will be hidden with the new anti-terror law. Authorities on both sides of the border have been working out various information sharing protocols. The U.S. wants guarantees that its black ops will not be made public.

It is also important to consider that in the anti-terror laws the Harper government has been putting in place, the definition of terrorist activity is continuously broadened. Each new law explicitly states that if the Canadian state or its allies engage in the same terrorist activity, it is not to be considered terrorism. For example, Bill S-9, the Nuclear Terrorism Act currently at third reading in the House of Commons says in reference to nuclear materials, that if an individual carries out an attack against or interferes in the functioning of a nuclear facility, it is to be considered terrorist activity, while if a government does so in a state of war it is considered legal. Is this to protect the likes of Israel and the U.S. when they openly threaten to attack the nuclear facilities of Iran or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea?

The security of Canadians lies in providing their rights with a guarantee. The Harper government however says only the state has rights while the people do not. The state will accord them some rights so long as these rights can be balanced against the right of the state to act with impunity. Canadians should make sure they do not fall into the trap being set by the Harper government to enshrine a self-serving imperialist definition of rights rooted in medieval obscurantism. A modern definition of rights places human beings and their well-being at the centre of all considerations.

The ruling circles in Canada and the U.S. see the organized resistance of the working class at home and abroad and its allies such as the First Nations as their biggest enemy and problem. They desperately want to preserve their system in which the monopolies are serviced by the public purse and all the natural and human resources and the state itself are at their disposal. The new anti-terror law is aimed at those who will not accept monopoly dictate.

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State Terror in the Name of High Ideals

Boston Bombing, Texas Explosion and
the Danger of Police State Measures

Buffalo Forum joins people nationwide in mourning the deaths of those killed in the Boston Marathon bombings and the West, Texas explosion at a fertilizer storage facility. We salute the heroic efforts of first responders and others who quickly acted to assist the hundreds injured in both locations, running toward the explosions, not away. In both cases, the readiness of people to assist each other and take action regardless of their own safety was clear. We condemn the act of terror in Boston. We also condemn the crimes involved in the Texas bombing, crimes of unsafe working conditions, unsafe storage of highly explosive materials, and the unsafe and dangerous location of the facility in a densely populated area near a school and nursing home, all of which killed 14 people and injured close to 200, with some still missing. And while the bombing in Boston is considered a crime meriting a massive police presence and lockdown of the city, Texas is simply called an accident.

What stands out as different in the two situations was the actions of government and policing agencies. The Boston bombings remained top national news the entire week with day-long reporting at the start and the end. A massive police presence was imposed. The monopoly media endlessly made false reports, then excused them claiming the "speed" of events made it impossible to be factual. Police released a supposed internet quote from one of the individuals about "killing everyone," which they themselves said could not be verified but was released and repeated anyway. During the day-long events on Friday, April 19, the language used to describe the young men targeted was meant to dehumanize them. They were "suspects 1 and 2." They were not, as their many friends described them, friendly, reliable and respectful young men. And they were not considered American either, though the younger brother has lived most of his life here and graduated high school in Boston. It's not likely during his wresting matches that he was singled out as an immigrant from Chechnya. But now, it is endlessly repeated that the brothers were "Chechen terrorists."

And that is how the young man now detained is being treated. He is being denied his right to a lawyer and interrogated by a Guantánamo-style team. He is guilty, not innocent until proven guilty. It remains to be seen if he will be tried in a military or civilian court or tried at all, considering that torture and other measures will likely be used to secure a "confession."

Further, the fact that the Marathon itself is used as a training exercise for police and military alike was made clear before the bombings occurred. Bomb-sniffing dogs, snipers, National Guard, were present at the start and finish line and along the course. Then the effort to kill or capture the two young men involved a massive police action and police state measures. The public transit system was shut down, all taxis halted, and the entire city put on lockdown. What is the necessity for such action when one person had already been killed and the other was wounded, on foot and thus could be far from the area of the shootout? Why the promotion of such fear and the imposing of such measures? Are we to become used to such police actions not backed up by facts or necessity?

Protest denounces state-organized attacks on Chicago anti-war activists in the name of "security,"
September 27, 2010.

It is already known that the government has wrongly identified individuals as being involved in terrorism. It is also the case that the FBI itself has instigated, organized and funded numerous plots using paid informants. Whatever the situation may be in this case, the role of the government and media in whipping up the level of fear and justifying the police actions taken against the whole city are a dangerous precedent. It is a means to make such actions acceptable, to develop public support for them and for the impunity of government to impose such measures in the future using the claim of potential terrorism.

President Obama went to Boston, spoke at the funeral there, and after the young man was detained issued another statement saying, "I've instructed the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security and our intelligence community to continue to deploy all the necessary resources to support the investigation, to collect intelligence, and to protect our citizens." He added, "We will determine what happened. We will investigate any associations that these terrorists may have had. And we'll continue to do whatever we have to do to keep our people safe."

The same is not the case for Texas. The government is not promising to deploy "all necessary resources" to investigate the cause of the explosion and the responsibility of the company and government for the deaths and injuries that occurred. There are no promises to "do whatever we have to do to keep our people safe." While the president did convey his condolences to the people of West, and said they "will have the resources that they need to recover and rebuild," investigating the cause of the explosion and responsibility for it is not considered urgent. Why are the deaths and injuries from a fertilizer bomb a tragedy -- but not a crime?

West Fertilizer had two 12,000-gallon tanks for anhydrous ammonia, which is stored as a liquid under high pressure. It was also storing up to 540,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical. Ammonium nitrate fertilizer is responsible for the worst industrial accident in U.S. history, when it caused a container ship to explode in 1947 in Texas City, Texas, killing more than 500 people. It also was combined with fuel and used by Timothy McVeigh in the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Yet the facility was allowed to be located in a residential area near a school and nursing home, with no emergency plans or equipment in place to deal with a potential ammonium nitrate explosion. West Fertilizer also said in its 2011 risk management plan filed with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that its anhydrous ammonia did not pose any threat of fire or explosions. It remains unclear what caused the initial fire and the massive explosion that followed, killing five volunteer firefighters and four other first responders.

The blast, which shook the ground with the force of a magnitude 2.1 earthquake, all but obliterated a five- to six-block radius around the plant. It wrecked about 50 to 75 homes and the middle school. A 50-unit apartment complex had its walls torn off and its roof peeled back. Dangerous chemicals still threaten search and rescue efforts.

A spokesman for the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health admitted, "We need a system in which facilities that are inherently dangerous are required to develop detailed disaster prevention plans before they're allowed to operate." Yet this inherently dangerous facility has been allowed to operate and to date is not being held accountable for the deaths and injuries -- and nor is the government which allowed it to operate.

There were more deaths, injuries and destruction in Texas, the danger still persists, but it does not provide the opportunity for inflaming fears and engaging in police state exercises. The deaths of workers at the hands of companies are not considered crimes meriting "all the necessary resources" to investigate and ensure actions are taken to "keep our people safe." Buffalo Forum rejects the police state actions in Boston and government manipulation of public sentiments and concerns to justify them, and prepare conditions for similar actions in the future. Individuals suspected of acts of terror are innocent until proven guilty and have all the same rights as any other individual suspected of a crime, including the right to a lawyer and not to be subjected to torture.

We also demand that West Fertilizer and the government be held fully accountable for the crimes of the deaths and injuries and destruction in West, Texas and that the federal government act immediately to ensure the safety of all workers and residents in West and those working in and around all chemical and fertilizer factories posing similar dangers.

Buffalo Forum is a publication of the U.S. Marxist- Leninist Organization.

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Terrorist Attacks on the Boston Marathon --
Is American Exceptionalism Dying on Life Support?

On Monday, April 15 (or "4-15"), an unconscionable terrorist act was unleashed at the conclusion of the Boston Marathon, an entirely civilian activity. Over the next four days, the response of U.S. law enforcement authorities was initially anarchic and paralyzed. For the first 72 hours, there were no arrests or suspects. Then at mid-evening Friday, Boston-area police officials from local, state and FBI-level enforcement reported arresting, alive, the last of two brothers suspected of perpetrating the bombing.

This cathartic outcome was the culmination of almost 24 hours of quite conventional but thorough police work conducted under intense official and even more intense unofficial scrutiny. On Thursday, publication by the police of a couple of indistinctly photographed possible suspects walking quickly from the bombing area suddenly changed the whole direction that the story seemed to be taking. One suspect, the older of the brothers, was killed that night in a shootout with police near the MIT campus.

As distinct from the plethora of FBI frame-ups of numerous "terrorist attempts," "4-15" was the first real mass-public terrorist incident on U.S. soil, without any "lone gunman"-type figure, since 9-11. It shares with that far more massively bloody event one extremely important common feature: many layers of security and law enforcement were completely paralyzed for the duration and immediate aftermath of the attack, without themselves being directly attacked. The media guesswork about "whodunit" -- all without a lick of evidence -- quickly became a flood. On April 18th, three days after the bombing, all this speculation disappeared. Two brothers -- Russian immigrants to the U.S. with family connections to the Caucasian post-Soviet Republic of Chechnya -- were spotted on digital camera records departing the scene of the bombing.

As of early Friday evening, the other brother seemed to have slipped the net, possibly injured. During the preceding 18 hours or so, Boston-proper plus major districts on the north side of the Charles River (across from the city core) had been placed under lockdown as police went door to door. Residents were "advised" neither to go out nor let anyone indoors without police ID. The public atmosphere of paralyzing fear proved sufficiently toxic that close to 100 per cent cooperation with the lockdown was achieved without any level of government having to declare military rule or some other form of state-of-emergency beyond shutting down public transit. Even before the eventual resolution of the police tracking and capture of the sole remaining suspect, there were doubtless many lessons being drawn from this by U.S. authorities at all levels as to how best to line up the U.S. public's acceptance of the imposition of open fascist emergency rule.

Given the thousands of man-hours their forces put in at the Boston Marathon this week, the paralysis of Homeland Security and FBI officialdom for the first more than 72 hours following the bombing seemed unusually incoherent. There was no coup. At the same time the FBI's role orchestrating the responses of various levels of state and local law enforcement was everywhere in evidence. At the same time, this FBI element also was and remains a moving target. For example, no representative from the monopoly media has dared yet even to ask whether either suspect or both had become recruited into an FBI-led "sting." Yet, case after case has surfaced over the last several months in which an FBI undercover agent, inciting one or more members of an illegal conspiracy ultimately to stage some violent act long in the planning, supplies or inserts a dud bomb or bomb-making material, then supplies the eventual court testimony that convicts one or more members of the "conspiracy."

Taking the longer view of these events in general and the spectrum of reactions to the 2013 Boston Marathon outrage in particular, however, there are more unsettling matters that seem to break the surface. Most notably, quite a lot of even relatively informed commentary about these events inevitably points to the obvious double standard followed by U.S. authorities regarding its financing of terrorist outrages across the Arab-Islamic world while pretending not to see any connections to the infliction of terrorist outrages on U.S. soil. Yet, nowhere is heard a discouraging word about the longstanding U.S.-based ideopolitical disease encapsulated in the phrase "American exceptionalism."

American exceptionalism is a phrase describing a belief in the historical uniqueness of the U.S. experiment in replacing foreign colonial rule with a domestic republican order. Its core belief is that the peoples of the United States are, for all time, utterly immune to and unaffected by any of the rules, norms or lessons of social and economic development that have unfolded in every other corner of the globe. (Also part of this outlook is the presumption, rife throughout the monopoly media of the United States, that American interventions beyond its own territory are undertaken for benign reasons, and never for selfish plundering of the weak by the strong.)

Following 9-11, American exceptionalism was refurbished as an ideological position that apologizes for global state terrorist attacks inflicted by U.S.-led forces. This was heavily disguised as pure and simple revenge for 9-11, yet it led directly to the wars of aggression and occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq which continue to this day. At the same time, a widespread propaganda issued by partisans of the U.S. Democratic Party was spread over the rest of the eight-year reign of the Bush-Cheney Republicans, attributing their war crimes to the extreme right-ward position of the main bloc of Bush-Cheney supporters. Since Obama became president, of course, his administrations continue or expand all the "anti-terrorist" and "homeland security" innovations of Bush-Cheney. Like the Republicans before them, the Democrats claim that U.S. revenge for 9-11 is incomplete. Yet, as was seen throughout the Bush-Cheney years, nowhere is American exceptionalism or its deepening bankruptcy acknowledged.

Can the U.S. government at any level ever get to the bottom or the truth of whatever force(s) perpetrated this anti-people attack? Today, in an era where the United States is the sole militarily unchallengeable superpower around the globe, there is no way to formulate an answer to this question without revisiting and re-examining what the doctrine of American exceptionalism has become.

More than a decade of numerous evidences have confirmed that the most massive terrorism is being inflicted daily worldwide by U.S. forces. In the teeth of compelling circumstantial evidence of connections to state or local law enforcement, meanwhile, half a dozen mass shooting incidents in the U.S. itself have been pinned on individual perpetrators who were repeatedly instantly declared to be entirely socially isolated "lone gunmen." After all this, no media outlet connected to the government or private monopoly owners has dared even to hint that the state machinery of the Obama Administration should be scrutinized as part of getting to the bottom of "4-15."

Thus will the orgy of self-congratulation among the various police forces involved in these recent events eventually pass. Absolutely nothing has changed, or will have changed, as a result. Thus has it come about that the only thing more dysfunctional than the doctrine of American exceptionalism itself turns out to be... denial of unstinting faith in the doctrine of American exceptionalism.

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The Cluster Bombs of Boston and
Drone Strikes of Yemen

Funeral in Dhamar City, Yemen, September 20, 2012, for civilians killed by a U.S. drone strike. On September 3, 2012,
the strike missed its suspected al-Qaeda target and hit two civilian vehicles in the city of Radda in al-Bayda province,
killing up to 13 civilians, including two women. (Xinhua)

One day last week, I was in a Shawarma shop as the wall-to-wall TV coverage of the Boston manhunt provided the soundscape for lunch. The gentleman behind the counter and I exchanged words of sadness about the sickness infecting those who would commit the kind of violence we saw at the end of the world-famous marathon.

"This reminds me of growing up in Lebanon," he told me. "Every day, during the war, bombs like this would go off all the time." Hundreds were indiscriminately killed, like those killed this past week in Iraq by car bombs, and in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Yemen by U.S. air strikes. As the lunch hour went on and the stenographers to power struggled to fill the airwaves with commentary, the inevitable questions arose. Was anywhere safe, given something bad could happen on a moment's notice? What drives a person to do this?

"Why did these young men who grew up and studied here as part of our communities and our country resort to such violence?" asked Barack Obama on Friday night. It is a testament to the self-censorship of global media that Obama can ask such a question without a hint of irony, nor without a single voice asking the same question of the Harvard-trained, constitutional lawyer Obama himself, who two days earlier signed off on the latest of his daily kill lists, resulting in the extrajudicial murder of two individuals in the town of Wessab, Yemen.

Writer Farea Al-Muslimi, in an Al Monitor editorial, "My Village Was Attacked By US Drones in Yemen," describes a sense of bewilderment that his village could be attacked, one that must have mirrored the sense of outrage felt by Bostonians when their trademark marathon was bombed. "If you live in Yemen, the golden rule is to expect anything any time," al-Muslimi wrote. "That, however, does not include expecting your hometown village -- one of the most peaceful and beautiful places in Yemen -- to be bombed. The peacefulness of such a place makes you believe that no one has ever heard of it, let alone that it is bombed by a US drone strike at night.... The ominous buzz of the drones terrorizes communities. Where will they strike? Will I be next? These are the questions youngsters now grow up asking...The 'collateral damage' of drones cannot just be measured in corpses. Drones are traumatizing a generation."

Based on the daily trauma of drone strikes, the editorial concludes, "It is tempting to conclude that the US has no interest in a measured response to terrorism. It is difficult not to think it doesn't matter to them whether they terrorize (and radicalize) entire populations as they check another name off their 'kill list.'"

That nagging question about who would do such things arose again during a White House press briefing, where the pack mentality was briefly broken by a very brave correspondent, Amina Ismael, who put it plainly: "I send my deepest condolence to the victims and families in Boston. But President Obama said that what happened in Boston was an act of terrorism. I would like to ask, Do you consider the U.S. bombing on civilians in Afghanistan earlier this month that left 11 children and a woman killed a form of terrorism? Why or why not?"

White House spokesflak Jay Carney's answer was typical bafflegab, and the rest of the reporters fell in with softball questions more befitting the narrative of the day. Meanwhile, editorial pages lit up with the not unexpected think pieces about "radicalization," with Canadian national security industry spokesman Wesley Wark struggling to understand how "seemingly well-integrated young men can come to take up the cause of mass casualty violence and terrorism." It is a testament either to his poor scholarship or his willful blindness that Wark concludes that, despite a decade of counter-terrorism efforts, "we are no closer to possessing a definitive answer."

Wark wonders about the motives of individuals who would seek to "kill and maim," but rather misses a key point. The suspects were acting no differently than a general in the Pentagon when they detonated a crude version of weapons that are a regular part of many a military arsenal: cluster bombs, anti-personnel weapons that are no different in their intended use than the Boston bomb, designed to rip apart human flesh and inflict maximum suffering. These things have been dropped millions of times on civilian targets by air forces whose pilots have received medals of bravery.

Wark and others might also benefit from a brilliant piece of 1970s research by Dane Archer and Rosemary Gartner called "Peacetime Casualties: The Effects of War on the Violent Behaviour of Noncombatants." This analysis, which documents substantive increases in domestic homicide rates following a war, begins by stating the problem that is largely dismissed as part of the "root causes" argument: "Violence by the State is strangely absent from discussions of violence. Books about aggression, for example, often treat topics ranging from hormones to homicidal criminals without mentioning capital punishment, the shooting of looters, the beating of protesters, or even that most impressive form of 'official' violence: war."

The legitimation of official violence, they argue, becomes so embedded in the culture that the core message -- "the unmistakable moral lesson that homicide is an acceptable, or even praiseworthy, means to certain ends" -- becomes mirrored in the population at large. A majority of nations involved in wars experienced homicide rates that increased significantly compared to nations not involved, revealing a "linkage between the violence of governments and the violence of individuals. This linkage is mediated, we believe, by a process of legitimation in which wartime homicide becomes a high-status, rewarded model for subsequent homicides by individuals .The wartime reversal of the customary peacetime prohibition against killing may somehow influence the threshold for using homicidal force as a means of settling conflict in everyday life." Put more succinctly, U.S. Justice Louis Brandeis famously wrote in 1928: "Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law."

Another answer can be found in our recent history. A media obsessed with anniversaries (the one week anniversary of Boston, the 100th commemoration of the First World War, the latest day count of Lindsay Lohan's sobriety) failed to [notice] the 45th anniversary of a story that was originally reported as an American military victory.

On March 15, 1968, young American soldiers went into a Vietnamese village and when asked by a soldier, "Are we supposed to kill women and children?" were told by their commanding officer, "Kill anything that moves." As Nick Turse further recounts in his excellent history of U.S. war crimes in Vietnam, Kill Anything That Moves, "Over four hours, members of Charlie Company methodically slaughtered more than five hundred unarmed victims They even took a quiet break to eat lunch in the midst of the carnage. Along the way, they also raped women and young girls, mutilated the dead, systemically burned homes, and fouled the area's drinking water." Such atrocities were the norm, not the exception, and Turse notes that massacres were so common that the Pentagon formed a secret Vietnam War Crimes Working Group.

While ordinary soldiers committed these heinous acts, they were, like the tortures, renditions, and mass slaughters from the skies of today, part of the official command structure. War criminal Henry Kissinger relayed the murderous orders of President Nixon on the bombing of Cambodia, instructing the Air Force: "Anything that flies on anything that moves."

That genocidal mentality (rooted very much in the slaughter of indigenous populations and the ethnic cleansing symbolized by "residential" schools) was also reflected in the deliberate targeting of Iraq's electricity grid and water treatment systems during the 1991 Gulf War, with the U.S. Air Force noting in a 1998 report that "The loss of electricity shut down the capital's water treatment plants and led to a public health crisis from raw sewage dumped in the Tigris River." A U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency analysis entitled "Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities," noted that sanctions (which killed 1.5 million people, and were "worth it," according to former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright) would prevent the importation of the necessary equipment to purify water, leading to "a shortage of pure drinking water for much of the population" and "increased incidences, if not epidemics, of disease."

Perhaps the real question is: What radicalized U.S. officials to so hate civilian populations around the globe that such atrocities could be planned and carried out? Another opportunity to understand the "radicalization" of American officials (and their Canadian counterparts) was lost with the media's failure to provide an equal amount of coverage to two well-documented reports on complicity in torture. One report (Globalizing Torture) found 54 nations (including Canada) provided assistance to the U.S. program of rendition to torture, while another (The Report of the Constitution Project's Task Force on Detainee Treatment), a bipartisan effort undertaken by some very conservative elements, including members of the military, found it "indisputable" that the U.S. has been complicit in torture, and expressed its concern at "the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after September 11, directly involving a president and his top advisors on the wisdom, propriety, and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody. Despite this extraordinary aspect, the Obama administration declined, as a matter of policy, to undertake or commission an official study of what happened, saying it was 'unproductive' to 'look backwards' rather than forward."

As people around the globe, from Boston Massachusetts to Wessab, Yemen and the Kunar province of Afghanistan remember the dead and care for the wounded in their communities, all victimized by acts of terrorism, it remains our collective task to not only seek accountability, but also a consistent recognition of -- and action responding to the fact -- that terrorism is committed with our tax dollars, by our governments, in our name.

Matthew Behrens is a freelance writer and social justice advocate who co-ordinates the Homes not Bombs non-violent direct action network. He has worked closely with the targets of Canadian and U.S. 'national security' profiling for many years. This item was originally published on rabble.ca, April 22, 2013.

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The Guantanamo Bay System of Indefinite Detention

The New York Times on April 15 published an op-ed by Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, a Yemeni national currently on hunger strike at the U.S. torture camp and prison at Guantánamo Bay to protest the brutal conditions and indefinite detention without charges. He has himself been detained without charges for more than 11 years.

Moqbel "wrote" the op-ed through an interpreter and a telephone conversation with his lawyers at the human rights group Reprieve. He describes the horrible conditions which prompted the hunger strike in which he and other detainees are participating and, particularly, the supreme injustice of being locked in a cage indefinitely without any evidence of wrong-doing presented or any opportunity to contest the accusations against them.

The horrific conditions were underscored by reports that on the weekend the op-ed was published, guards at the torture camp shot rubber bullets at some of the detainees to force them into single cells.

Moqbel says amongst other things:

"I've been on a hunger strike since Feb. 10 and have lost well over 30 pounds. I will not eat until they restore my dignity.

"I've been detained at Guantánamo for 11 years and three months. I have never been charged with any crime. I have never received a trial.

"I could have been home years ago -- no one seriously thinks I am a threat -- but still I am here. Years ago the military said I was a 'guard' for Osama bin Laden, but this was nonsense, like something out of the American movies I used to watch. They don't even seem to believe it anymore. But they don't seem to care how long I sit here, either....

"The only reason I am still here is that President Obama refuses to send any detainees back to Yemen. This makes no sense. I am a human being, not a passport, and I deserve to be treated like one.

"I do not want to die here, but until President Obama and Yemen's president do something, that is what I risk every day.

"Where is my government? I will submit to any 'security measures' they want in order to go home, even though they are totally unnecessary.

"I will agree to whatever it takes in order to be free. I am now 35. All I want is to see my family again and to start a family of my own.

"The situation is desperate now. All of the detainees here are suffering deeply. At least 40 people here are on a hunger strike. People are fainting with exhaustion every day. I have vomited blood.

"And there is no end in sight to our imprisonment. Denying ourselves food and risking death every day is the choice we have made.

"I just hope that because of the pain we are suffering, the eyes of the world will once again look to Guantánamo before it is too late."

Former U.S. constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald, who writes for the Guardian on civil liberties and U.S. national security issues, provides the following pertinent information:

"More than half of the remaining 166 detainees at Guantanamo are Yemeni. Dozens of those Yemenis (along with dozens of other detainees) have long ago been cleared for release by the U.S. government on the grounds that there is no evidence to believe they are a threat to anyone. A total of 87 of the remaining detainees -- roughly half -- have been cleared for release, of which 58 are Yemeni. Not even the U.S. government at this point claims they are guilty or pose a threat to anyone.

"The Yemeni government not only is willing to take them, but is now demanding their release, using language notably harsh for a U.S. puppet regime."

Yemen's president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in an interview with the Arabic language channel of Russia Today said: "We believe that keeping someone in prison for over 10 years without due process is clear-cut tyranny. The United States is fond of talking democracy and human rights. But when we were discussing the prisoner issue with the American attorney general, he had nothing to say."

Greenwald noted that "in January, 2010, President Obama [...] announced a moratorium on the release of any Yemeni detainees, even ones cleared for release." Amnesty International explained that the administration "had decided that four dozen of the Guantánamo detainees could neither be prosecuted nor released, but should remain in indefinite military detention without charge or criminal trial. The administration also imposed a moratorium on repatriation of Yemeni detainees and said that 30 such detainees would be held in 'conditional' detention based on 'current security conditions in Yemen.' This moratorium is still in place."

Greenwald cites a Boston Globe editorial that says, "Even Shaker Aamer, a British resident cleared for release years ago, remains at Guantánamo, despite the British government's public and repeated requests that he be sent home.

"[...] Obama appears to have thrown in the towel on Guantánamo. In January, he closed the office of the envoy who led the effort to close the facility. Now, the US military is investing in a fiber optic cable to the base and planning for specialized medical care for 'aging detainees.' That suggests that some will be held there for the rest of their natural lives."

Greenwald points out, "The last detainee to die at the camp, Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, who allegedly killed himself in September, was a Yemeni who had never been charged with a crime and had been cleared for release, but, when it was apparent he was going nowhere, 'had regularly gone on hunger strikes and been sedated or placed on suicide watch.' Independently, the worsening conditions at the camp that the detainees are protesting are under the exclusive province of Obama as Commander-in-chief."

In early 2010, when Obama issued his Executive Order to preserve Guantánamo's system of indefinite detention, Republican Congressman Peter King lauded Obama: "I commend the Obama Administration for issuing this Executive Order. The bottom line is that it affirms the Bush Administration policy that our government has the right to detain dangerous terrorists until the cessation of hostilities." Greenwald explains the import of such support: "Peter King, widely regarded as a national security extremist and anti-Muslim bigot, has continuously praised Obama's policies in the 'War on Terror' generally."

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Freedom for the Five Cuban Anti-Terrorists

Second "5 Days for the Cuban 5 in Washington, DC"

The Cuban Five are five Cuban patriots unjustly imprisoned in the U.S. Their only crime was to report to U.S. authorities the plans of anti-Cuban groups to launch terrorist attacks on Cuba from U.S. soil.

The International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 is calling on everyone to attend the second "5 Days for the Cuban 5" in Washington, DC from May 30 to June 5. Organizers report that a number of parliamentarians, lawyers, trade unionists, activists and supporters of the Cuban Five from all over the world have confirmed their participation. The "5 Days for the Cuban 5" will focus on how to increase awareness of the case of the Cuban Five and win their immediate release from their unjust imprisonment which began with their arrest on false charges by the U.S. government. Their only crime was infiltrating terrorist groups based in Miami, Florida and passing information on to U.S. authorities in order to stop terrorist attacks against Cuba launched from U.S. soil.

For information or to endorse the event, email apoyojornada@gmail.com. For more information about the case of the Cuban Five, visit the committee's website: www.thecuban5.org. Below is a preliminary agenda.

Thursday May 30

9am: Press Conference. Father Miguel D'Escoto, Wayne Smith and other guests. Place: National Press Club, 529 14th Street NW, 13th Floor, Washington, DC.

All day long: Booth with information about the Cuban 5 at the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) conference. Place: Washington Marriott Wardman Park, 2660 Woodley Road NW, Washington, DC.

3pm: Welcoming and orientation meeting for the 5 Days for the Cuban 5 participants, (Place TBA)

Friday May 31

All day long: Booth with information about the Cuban 5 at the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) conference. Place: Washington Marriott Wardman Park, 2660 Woodley Road NW, Washington, DC.

7pm: Reception (Place TBA)

Saturday June 1

1pm: Rally in front of the White House. So far buses are being organized from New York City and Quebec. An important delegation of Cubans living in Miami have confirmed their participation as well as people from Vancouver, Toronto, Chicago, and other cities across the United States.

6pm: Ecumenical-Cultural Event. Angela Davis, Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, Father Miguel D'Escoto, Father Luis Barrios, Maria León, Members of the Cuban Council of Churches, Nancy Morejon. Also the DC Labor Chorus. Place: Saint Stephen Church, 1525 Newton St. Washington DC.

Sunday June 2

Community Activity for the Cuban 5 in Takoma Park MD (TBA)

Hip Hop Cultural Event with Head Roc and other groups (Place TBA)

Monday June 3

9am: Lobby activities. Members of Parliaments from other countries who have confirmed their participation: Father Miguel D'Escoto (Nicaragua) María León (Venezuela), Joan Josep Nuit (Spain) Yeidckol Polevensky (former Vice President of the Mexican Senate), Nidia Díaz (El Salvador), Noam Paech (Germany)

11am: Meeting with attorneys and jurists from the U.S. and abroad. Convened by Martin Garbus, attorney of the legal team of the Cuban 5 with the presence of lawyers from the US and abroad. Sponsored by the National Lawyers Guild, Place: George Town Legal Center, 600 New Jersey Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C.

6pm: Meeting of labour with the presence of U.S. and rank and file members from abroad. Place: Postal Service Union Hall, 6139 Chillum Place NE, Washington, DC. Special Guest: Dolores Huerta

7pm: Panel of intellectuals, Ignacio Ramonet, Saúl Landau, Salim Lamrani, Miguel Barnet, y Jane Franklin. Lugar: Busboys and Poets, 2021 14th Street, NW.

Tuesday June 4

9am: Lobby activities continue

11am: Reception at Capitol Hill hosted by a U.S. congressman to welcome the Parliamentarians from other countries (Place TBA)

6pm: Presentation of new books on the Cuban 5 and Cuba, Fernando Morais, Arnold August and Stephen Kimber, with special guest Danny Glover. Celebration of Gerardo Hernandez's birthday. Place: Busboys and Poets, 2021 14th Street, NW

Wednesday June 5

9am: Lobby Activities Continue

1pm: Closing event: Videoconference to connect with family of the Cuban Five. Father Miguel D'Escoto, Dolores Huerta, Maria León, Fernando Morais, Ignacio Ramonet. Place: Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela- Bolivarian Hall, 2443 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC

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