Wednesday, July 07, 2010


"Hypocrisy in anything whatever may deceive the cleverest and most penetrating man, but the least wide-awake of children recognizes it, and is revolted by it, however ingeniously it may be disguised."
~ Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy.

On June 21 the SCOTUS [Supreme Court of the US] determined that providing "training, expert advice or assistance" to teach the PKK how to file human rights complaints or to engage in peace negotiations is the same thing as providing material support to a "terrorist" organization. From The Washington Post, amazingly:

WHICH OF the following is illegal under the law that bars providing "material support" to terrorists?:

1. Giving money to a terrorist organization.

2. Providing explosives training to terrorists.

3. Urging a terrorist group to put down its arms in favor of using lawful, peaceful means to achieve political goals.

After Monday's Supreme Court ruling in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project the answer is: all three.

The material support law prohibits U.S. citizens from providing "services," "personnel" or "training, expert advice or assistance" to U.S.-designated terrorist groups. It has long been understood that funding and providing weapons training were off limits. What was less clear was how far the law could reach to punish activities with no link to terrorism.

The court's answer: Very far. In our opinion, it is the court that went too far.

From Foreign Policy:

And although it seems like attempts to convince terrorist groups to use non-lethal methods to pursue their political agenda would be a no-brainer, the US Supreme Court concluded otherwise. How could this be? According to the Supreme Court, an FTO such as the PKK could misuse such training to feign an interest in peace while in the meantime it builds up its strength as it awaits a more opportune time to resume terrorism. In addition, it could use its newly-gained knowledge of international law to subvert the legal system by manipulating it to prevent successful campaigns against terrorism. Finally, when an FTO such as the PKK learns skills such as peaceful political advocacy and the norms of international law and international humanitarian and human rights law, there is the substantial risk that it will obtain greater legitimacy, thereby making it harder to defeat them.

The Atlantic continues:

. . . But as Justice Breyer suggested in dissent, it makes no sense: Independent speech about a designated group may legitimize the group as much (or more) than advice to the group on conflict resolution. Breyer was equally dismissive of the assertion that such advice enables terrorism by "freeing up" the group's resources: "The Government has provided us with no empirical information that might convincingly support this claim." Nor did it make a factual showing that the speech proposed by the plaintiffs in HLP would confer any particular "legitimacy" on a designated group.

One of the original court documents in the challenge to the Patriot Act can be found here, and the document contains the argument of the plaintiffs in the case, including that of Judge Ralph Fertig. Here's a sample:

Since 1991 the HLP [Humanitarian Law Project] and Judge Fertig have devoted substantial time and resources advocating on behalf of the Kurds living in Turkey and working with and providing training, expert advice and other forms of support to the PKK. Judge Fertig and other individuals associated with the HLP have conducted fact-finding investigations on the Kurds in Turkey and have published reports and articles presenting their findings, which are supportive of the PKK and the struggle for Kurdish liberation. They assert that the Turkish government has committed extensive human rights violations against the Kurds, including the summary execution of more than 18,000 Kurds, the widespread use of arbitrary detentions and torture against persons who speak out for equal rights for Kurds or are suspected of sympathizing with those who do, and the wholesale destruction of some 2,4000 Kurdish villages. Applying international law principles, they have concluded that the PKK is a party to an armed conflict governed by Geneva Conventions and Protocols and, therefore, is not a terrorist organization under international law.

There's much more in the court document that outlines some of the work of the HLP and Judge Fertig on behalf of the Kurdish people. Take a look so that you can get a better idea of what it is to be a "terrorist" in the mind of the United States in general and of the fascist Black Robes of the SCOTUS in particular.

At the same time that the fascist Black Robes of the SCOTUS determined that helping the PKK negotiate peace was an act of terrorism, news reports were discussing the fact that the US military and its civilian contractors were handing out beaucoup bucks to warlords and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

It's apparent from Le Monde Diplomatique that not only do US military officers like to flash the cash in the Taliban's direction, but NATO commanders are somewhat taken with the Taliban personally:

Sadly for the US, almost everyone supports the Taliban rebels. Even Nato commanders. A senior officer said: “If I was a young man, I’d be fighting with the Taliban.”

The same article says that, until recently anyway, the entire goal of the US military in Afghanistan was not even to defeat the Taliban:

For Nato soldiers, the fight is confusing. General Stanley McChrystal – their commander until President Barack Obama accepted his forced resignation last month, the result of his candour – told the troops that, in the counter-insurgency campaign, their primary goal is not to kill or even defeat the Taliban but rather to secure the population. The enemy is not even the Taliban, said Major-General Nick Carter, the British general in charge of the Kandahar campaign, but rather a “malign influence”, a code for corrupt government.

In light of a recent House subcommittee investigation into the matter, the Pentagon is taking the allegations "seriously". The entire congressional report can be found here and a larger news report on the investigation can be found at The Nation.

It makes one wonder whether or not such fine, upstanding Americans as US military officers and "free-market" contractors should, perhaps, be the first to be charged with offering material support to terrorists under the SCOTUS ruling. Alas, it's not to be for the simple reason that the Taliban is not listed as an FTO on the State Department's infamous List.

Now why is that?

On the one hand you have the PKK, an organization that has never targeted Americans or even talked about targeting Americans--unlike the MEK, pet organization of so many Republican congressmen--and on the other hand you have the Taliban, which manages to blow up or otherwise kill Americans every few days. Or at least every week. So why is the PKK on the List and the Taliban is not? It all sounds so very arbitrary to me.

Of course, the reason the Taliban has so far avoided being listed is because it was the guest of the Americans back in the 1990s:

Late in 1996, however, the Bridas Corp. of Argentina finally signed contracts with the Taliban and with Gen. Dostum of the Northern Alliance to build the pipeline.

One American company in particular, Unocal, found that intolerable and fought back vigorously, hiring a number of consultants in addition to Kissinger: Hamid Karzai, Richard Armitage, and Zalmay Khalilzad. (Armitage and Khalilzad would join the George W. Bush administration in 2001.)

Unocal wooed Taliban officials at its headquarters in Texas and in Washington, D.C., seeking to have the Bridas contract voided, but the Taliban refused. Finally, in February of 1998, John J. Maresca, a Unocal vice president, asked in a congressional hearing to have the Taliban replaced by a more stable regime.

The Clinton administration, having recently refused the PNAC request to invade Iraq, was not any more interested in a military overthrow of the Taliban. President Clinton did, however, shoot a few cruise missiles into Afghanistan, after the al Qaeda attacks on the U.S. embassies in Africa. And he issued an executive order forbidding further trade transactions with the Taliban.

Maresca was thus twice disappointed: The Taliban would not be replaced very soon, and Unocal would have to cease its pleadings with the regime.

Unocal's prospects rocketed when George W. Bush entered the White House, and the Project for the New American Century ideology of global dominance took hold.

The Bush administration itself took up active negotiations with the Taliban in January of 2001, seeking secure access to the Caspian Basin for American companies. The Enron Corp. also was eyeing a pipeline to feed its proposed power plant in India.) The administration offered a package of foreign aid as an inducement, and the parties met in Washington, Berlin and Islamabad. The Bridas contract might still be voided.

But the Taliban would not yield.

It would appear that the Americans are holding out to continue pipeline negotiations with the Taliban, and are, therefore, not "Listing" the group.

If so it means that former HPG Commander Comrade Bahoz Erdal's repeated comments about the targeting of oil and gas pipelines takes on a much greater sense of urgency. Since the Taliban refusal to go along with American oil companies and its continued targeting of US military personnel have kept it off the List, maybe the same tactics could benefit HPG and the PKK and, finally, force Turkey and the US to negotiate for a peaceful settlement of the Kurdish situation.

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