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 The Terror-Industrial Complex

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PostSubject: The Terror-Industrial Complex   The Terror-Industrial Complex EmptyFri 12 Mar 2010, 3:02 am

The Terror-Industrial Complex


Posted on Feb 8, 2010

By Chris Hedges
Editor’s note: As a result of errors, an earlier version of
this column misrepresented quoted material. The corrected version is

The conviction of the Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui in New
York last week of trying to kill American military officers and FBI
agents illustrates that the greatest danger to our security comes not
from al-Qaida but the thousands of shadowy mercenaries, kidnappers,
killers and torturers our government employs around the globe.

The bizarre story surrounding Siddiqui, 37, who received an
undergraduate degree from MIT and a doctorate in neuroscience from
Brandeis University, often defies belief. Siddiqui, who could spend 50
years in prison on seven charges when she is sentenced in May, was by
her own account abducted in 2003 from her hometown of Karachi, Pakistan,
with her three children—two of whom remain missing—and spirited to a
secret U.S. prison where she was allegedly tortured and mistreated for
five years. The American government has no comment, either about the
alleged clandestine detention or the missing children.

Siddiqui was discovered in 2008 disoriented and apparently aggressive
and hostile, in Ghazni, Afghanistan, with her oldest son. She allegedly
was carrying plans to make explosives, lists of New York landmarks and
notes referring to “mass-casualty attacks.” But despite these claims the
government prosecutors chose not to charge her with terrorism or links
to al-Qaida—the reason for her original appearance on the FBI’s
most-wanted list six years ago. Her supporters suggest that the papers
she allegedly had in her possession when she was found in Afghanistan,
rather than detail coherent plans for terrorist attacks, expose her
severe mental deterioration, perhaps the result of years of imprisonment
and abuse. This argument was bolstered by some of the pages of the
documents shown briefly to the court, including a crude sketch of a gun
that was described as a “match gun” that operates by lighting a match.

“Justice was not served,” Tina Foster, executive director of the
International Justice Network and the spokesperson for Aafia Siddiqui’s
family, told me. “The U.S. government made a decision to label this
woman a terrorist, but instead of putting her on trial for the alleged terrorist
activity she was put on trial for something else. They tried to convict her
of that something else, not with evidence, but because she was a terrorist.
She was selectively prosecuted for something that would allow them to only tell
their side of the story.”

The government built its entire case instead around disputed events
in the 300-square-foot room of the Ghazni police station. It insisted
that on July 18, 2008, the diminutive Siddiqui, who had been arrested by
local Afghan police the day before, seized an M4 assault rifle that was
left unattended and fired at American military and FBI agents. None of
the Americans were injured. Siddiqui, however, was gravely wounded, shot
twice in the stomach.

No one, other than Siddiqui, has attempted to explain where she was
for five years after she vanished in 2003. No one seems to be able to
explain why a disoriented Pakistani woman and her son, an American
citizen, neither of whom spoke Dari, were
discovered by local residents wandering in a public square in Ghazni,
where an eyewitness told Harpers Magazine the distraught Siddiqui “was
attacking everyone who got close to her.” Had Siddiqui, after years of
imprisonment and torture, perhaps been at the U.S. detention center in
Bagram and then dumped with one of her three children in Ghazi? And
where are the other two children, one of whom also is an American
citizen? In an article written by Petra Bartosiewicz in the November 2009
Harper’s Magazine, authorities in Afghanistan described a series of
events at odds with the official version.

<blockquote>The events of the following day are also subject to
dispute. According to the complaint, a U.S. Army captain and a warrant
officer, two FBI agents, and two military interpreters came to question
Siddiqui at Ghazni’s police headquarters. The team was shown to a
meeting room that was partitioned by a yellow curtain. “None of the
United States personnel were aware,” the complaint states, “that
Siddiqui was being held, unsecured, behind the curtain.” No explanation
is offered as to why no one thought to look behind it. The group sat
down to talk and, in another odd lapse of vigilance, “the Warrant
Officer placed his United States Army M-4 rifle on the floor to his
right next to the curtain, near his right foot.” Siddiqui, like a
villain in a stage play, reached from behind the curtain and pulled the
three-foot rifle to her side. She unlatched the safety. She pulled the
curtain “slightly back” and pointed the gun directly at the head of the
captain. One of the interpreters saw her. He lunged for the gun.
Siddiqui shouted, “Get the fuck out of here!” and fired twice. She hit
no one. As the interpreter wrestled her to the ground, the warrant
officer drew his sidearm and fired “approximately two rounds” into
Siddiqui’s abdomen. She collapsed, still struggling, then fell

The authorities in Afghanistan describe a different series of events.
The governor of Ghazni Province, Usman Usmani, told my local reporter
that the U.S. team had “demanded to take over custody” of Siddiqui. The
governor refused. He could not release Siddiqui, he explained, until
officials from the counterterrorism department in Kabul arrived to
investigate. He proposed a compromise: the U.S. team could interview
Siddiqui, but she would remain at the station. In a Reuters interview,
however, a “senior Ghazni police officer” suggested that the compromise
did not hold. The U.S. team arrived at the police station, he said, and
demanded custody of Siddiqui, the Afghan officers refused, and the U.S.
team proceeded to disarm them. Then, for reasons unexplained, Siddiqui
herself somehow entered the scene. The U.S. team, “thinking that she had
explosives and would attack them as a suicide bomber, shot her and took

Siddiqui’s own version of the shooting is less complicated. As she
explained it to a delegation of Pakistani senators who came to Texas to
visit her in prison a few months after her arrest, she never touched
anyone’s gun, nor did she shout at anyone or make any threats. She
simply stood up to see who was on the other side of the curtain and
startled the soldiers. One of them shouted, “She is loose,” and then
someone shot her. When she regained consciousness she heard someone else say, “We could lose our jobs.”</blockquote>
Siddiqui’s defense team pointed out that there was an absence of
bullets, casings or residue from the M4, all of which suggested it had
not been fired. They played a video to show that two holes in a wall
supposedly caused by the M4 had been there before July 18. They also
highlighted inconsistencies in the testimony from the nine government
witnesses, who at times gave conflicting accounts of how many people
were in the room, where they were sitting or standing and how many shots
were fired.

Siddiqui, who took the stand during the trial against the advice of
her defense team, called the report that she had fired the unattended M4
assault rifle at the Americans “the biggest lie.” She said she had been
trying to flee the police station because she feared being tortured.
Siddiqui, whose mental stability often appeared to be in question during
the trial, was ejected several times from the Manhattan courtroom for
erratic behavior and outbursts.

“It is difficult to get a fair trial in this country if the
government wants to accuse you of terrorism,” said Foster. “It is
difficult to get a fair trial on any types of charges. The government is
allowed to tell the jury you are a terrorist before you have to put on
any evidence. The fear factor that has emerged since 9/11 has permeated
into the U.S. court system in a profoundly disturbing way. It embraces
the idea that we can compromise core principles, for example the
presumption of innocence, based on perceived threats that may or may not
come to light. We, as a society, have chosen to cave on fear.”

I spent more than a year covering al-Qaida for The New York Times in
Europe and the Middle East. The threat posed by Islamic extremists,
while real, is also wildly overblown, used to foster a climate of fear
and political passivity, as well as pump billions of dollars into the
hands of the military, private contractors, intelligence agencies and
repressive client governments including that of Pakistan. The leader of
one FBI counterterrorism squad told The New York Times that of the 5,500
terrorism-related leads its 21 agents had pursued over the past five
years, just 5 percent were credible and not one had foiled an actual
terrorist plot. These statistics strike me as emblematic of the entire
war on terror.

Terrorism, however, is a very good business. The number of extremists
who are planning to carry out terrorist attacks is minuscule, but there
are vast departments and legions of ambitious intelligence and military
officers who desperately need to strike a tangible blow against
terrorism, real or imagined, to promote their careers as well as justify
obscene expenditures and a flagrant abuse of power. All this will not
make us safer. It will not protect us from terrorist strikes. The more
we dispatch brutal forms of power to the Islamic world the more enraged
Muslims and terrorists we propel into the ranks of those who oppose us.
The same perverted logic saw the Argentine military, when I lived in
Buenos Aires, “disappear” 30,000 of the nation’s citizens, the vast
majority of whom were innocent. Such logic also fed the drive to root
out terrorists in El Salvador, where, when I arrived in 1983, the death
squads were killing between 800 and 1,000 people a month. Once you build
secret archipelagos of prisons, once you commit huge sums of money and
invest your political capital in a ruthless war against subversion, once
you empower a network of clandestine killers, operatives and torturers,
you fuel the very insecurity and violence you seek to contain.

I do not know whether Siddiqui is innocent or guilty. But I do know
that permitting jailers, spies, kidnappers and assassins to operate
outside of the rule of law contaminates us with our own bile. Siddiqui
is one victim. There are thousands more we do not see. These abuses,
justified by the war on terror, have created a system of internal and
external state terrorism that is far more dangerous to our security and
democracy than the threat posed by Islamic radicals.

The Terror-Industrial Complex AP_terror_industrial_complex-300

AP / Fareed Khan
Mohammad Ahmed, son of Aafia Siddiqui, takes part in a
demonstration arranged by Human Rights Network.
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PostSubject: Re: The Terror-Industrial Complex   The Terror-Industrial Complex EmptyFri 12 Mar 2010, 3:38 pm

Robert Scheer, Editor in Chief, Truthdig

Robert Scheer has built a reputation for strong social and political writing over his 30 years as a journalist. His columns appear in newspapers across the country, and his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He conducted the famous Playboy magazine interview in which Jimmy Carter confessed to the lust in his heart and he went on to do many interviews for the Los Angeles Times with Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and many other prominent political and cultural figures.

Between 1964 and 1969 he was Vietnam correspondent, managing editor and editor in chief of Ramparts magazine. From 1976 to 1993 he served as a national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, writing on diverse topics such as the Soviet Union, arms control, national politics and the military. In 1993 he launched a nationally syndicated column based at the Los Angeles Times, where he was named a contributing editor. That column ran weekly for the next 12 years and is now based at Truthdig.

Scheer can be heard on the political radio program “Left, Right and Center” on KCRW, the National Public Radio affiliate in Santa Monica, Calif. He has written eight books, including “Thinking Tuna Fish, Talking Death: Essays on the Pornography of Power”; “With Enough Shovels: Reagan, Bush and Nuclear War” and “America After Nixon: The Age of Multinationals;” with his son Christopher and Lakshmi Chaudhry, “The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us about Iraq;” and “Playing President: “My Close Encounters with Nixon, Carter, Bush I and Clinton—and How They Did Not Prepare Me for George W. Bush.” Most recently, he wrote “The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America.”

Scheer was raised in the Bronx, where he attended public schools and graduated from City College of New York. He studied as a Maxwell Fellow at Syracuse University and was a fellow at the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, where he did graduate work in economics. Scheer is a contributing editor for The Nation as well as a Nation Fellow. He has also been a Poynter Fellow at Yale, and was a fellow in arms control at Stanford.



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