Warning European shoppers that supermarket shelf grapes and dates tagged “made in Israel” are probably produced in “illegal” settlements, NGOs on Tuesday demanded an EU-wide ban on imports of settlement goods.
In a report, 22 non-governmental organisations active in the Palestinian territories accused the European Union of propping up Israeli settler policy by doing booming business with settlements even though it views them as “illegal under international law.”
The EU currently imports 230 millon euros ($300 mln) of goods a year from Israeli settlements in the occupied territory — or 15 times more than from Palestinians themselves — according to World Bank figures from last month.
With some four million Palestinians and 500,000 Israeli settlers living in the occupied territory, this means the EU imports over 100 times more per settler than per Palestinian, said the report titled “Trading Away Peace: How Europe Helps Sustain Illegal Israeli Settlements.”
In the report Hans Van Den Broek, a former EU foreign policy chief and ex Dutch foreign minister, said it was urgent to agree “concrete measures” to contain settlement construction, which he said was the main factor blocking the resumption of the peace process.
“If Europe wants to preserve the two-state solution, it must act without delay and take the lead,” he said of the recommendations listed in the 36-page report.
“These measures, directed only at illegal settlemets outside Israel’s recognised borders, do not constitute an anti-Israel agenda.”
Settlement goods on sale in Europe, many from the potential breadbasket Jordan Valley, include dates, grapes, citrus fruits, herbs, wines, Ahava cosmetics, plastic Keter garden chairs and SodaStream carbonated drink products popular in Sweden.
But apart from Britain and Denmark, which have demanded goods be labelled “West Bank — Israeli settlement produce” or “Palestinian produce”, European consumers are not aware of the origin of goods that are simply tagged “made in Israel”.
Some European firms too have invested in settlements and their infrastructure or are providing services: this is the case of G4S (Britain/Denmark), Alstom (France), Veolia (France) and Heidelberg Cement (Germany), the report said.
At the same time, the 27-state EU bloc has become the largest donor to the Palestinians, handing out some five billion euros between 1994 and 2011, including 525 million euros last year alone.
Settlers enjoy massive subsidies and have easy access to international markets via government-built roads that bypass Palestinian areas.
Palestinians on the other hand face diminishing access to water sources and have to transport produce through more than 500 roadblocks and checkpoints.
“If EU aid is to have lasting impact … governments need to invest not only money but also political will to address the root causes of Palestinian poverty aid dependency,” the report states.
It calls not only for correct labelling of settlement products but also for moves to discourage EU firms from involvement with settlements and for a legal ban to exclude settlement goods from entry to the EU market.
It also suggests excluding settlements from preferential trade deals, cooperation accords and public procurement agreements with Europe.
Nations could also ensure that gifts to organisations that fund settlements be declared non tax-deductible.
The grand sweep of history after the Arab Spring is yet to be written; it remains a work in progress. But this piece, by Hussein Agha and Robert Malley in the New York Review of Books, is a stunner, riffing on the prospects of an Islamist phase, what this means for democracy, Arabs in general and Palestine. Read the whole thing:
New or newly invigorated actors rush to the fore: the ill-defined “street,” prompt to mobilize, just as quick to disband; young protesters, central activists during the uprising, roadkill in its wake. The Muslim Brothers yesterday dismissed by the West as dangerous extremists are now embraced and feted as sensible, businesslike pragmatists. The more traditionalist Salafis, once allergic to all forms of politics, are now eager to compete in elections. There are shadowy armed groups and militias of dubious allegiance and unknown benefactors as well as gangs, criminals, highwaymen, and kidnappers.
Alliances are topsy-turvy, defy logic, are unfamiliar and shifting. Theocratic regimes back secularists; tyrannies promote democracy; the US forms partnerships with Islamists; Islamists support Western military intervention. Arab nationalists side with regimes they have long combated; liberals side with Islamists with whom they then come to blows. Saudi Arabia backs secularists against the Muslim Brothers and Salafis against secularists. The US is allied with Iraq, which is allied with Iran, which supports the Syrian regime, which the US hopes to help topple. The US is also allied with Qatar, which subsidizes Hamas, and with Saudi Arabia, which funds the Salafis who inspire jihadists who kill Americans wherever they can.
In record time, Turkey evolved from having zero problems with its neighbors to nothing but problems with them. It has alienated Iran, angered Iraq, and had a row with Israel. It virtually is at war with Syria. Iraqi Kurds are now Ankara’s allies, even as it wages war against its own Kurds and even as its policies in Iraq and Syria embolden secessionist tendencies in Turkey itself.
For years, Iran opposed Arab regimes, cultivating ties with Islamists with whose religious outlook it felt it could make common cause. As soon as they take power, the Islamists seek to reassure their former Saudi and Western foes and distance themselves from Tehran despite Iran’s courting. The Iranian regime will feel obliged to diversify its alliances, reach out to non-Islamists who feel abandoned by the nascent order and appalled by the budding partnership between Islamists and the US. Iran has experience in such matters: for the past three decades, it has allied itself with secular Syria even as Damascus suppressed its Islamists.
When goals converge, motivations differ. The US cooperated with Gulf Arab monarchies and sheikhdoms in deposing Qaddafi yesterday and in opposing Assad today. It says it must be on the right side of history. Yet those regimes do not respect at home the rights they piously pursue abroad. Their purpose is neither democracy nor open societies. They are engaged in a struggle for regional domination. What, other than treasure, can proponents of a self-styled democratic uprising find in countries whose own system of governance is anathema to the democratic project they allegedly promote?
What will all this mean? The Islamists are loath either to share power achieved at high cost or to squander gains so patiently acquired. They must balance among their own restive rank-and-file, a nervous larger society, and an undecided international community. The temptation to strike fast pulls in one direction; the desire to reassure tugs in another. In general, they will prefer to eschew coercion, awaken the people to their dormant Islamic nature rather than foist it upon them. They will try to do it all: rule, enact social transformations incrementally, and be true to themselves without becoming a menace to others.
The Islamists propose a bargain. In exchange for economic aid and political support, they will not threaten what they believe are core Western interests: regional stability, Israel, the fight against terror, energy flow. No danger to Western security. No commercial war. The showdown with the Jewish state can wait. The focus will be on the slow, steady shaping of Islamic societies. The US and Europe may voice concern, even indignation at such a domestic makeover. But they’ll get over it. Just as they got over the austere fundamentalism of Saudi Arabia. Bartering—as in, we’ll take care of your needs, let us take care of ours—Islamists feel, will do the trick. Looking at history, who can blame them?
Mubarak was toppled in part because he was viewed as excessively subservient to the West, yet the Islamists who succeed him might offer the West a sweeter because more sustainable deal. They think they can get away with what he could not. Stripped of his nationalist mantle, Mubarak had little to fall back on; he was a naked autocrat. The Muslim Brothers by comparison have a much broader program—moral, social, cultural. Islamists feel they can still follow their convictions, even if they are not faithfully anti-Western. They can moderate, dilute, defer.
Unlike the close allies of the West they have replaced, Islamists are heard calling for NATO military intervention in Libya yesterday, Syria today, wherever they entertain the hope to take over tomorrow. One can use the distant infidels, who will not stay around for long, to jettison local infidels, who have hounded them for decades. Rejection of foreign interference, once a centerpiece of the post-independence outlook, is no longer the order of the day. It is castigated as counterrevolutionary.
What the US sought to obtain over decades through meddling and imposition, it might now obtain via acquiescence: Arab regimes that will not challenge Western interests. Little wonder that many in the region are persuaded that America was complicit in the Islamists’ rise, a quiet partner in what has been happening.
Everywhere, Israel faces the rise of Islam, of militancy, of radicalism. Former allies are gone; erstwhile foes reign supreme. But the Islamists have different and broader objectives. They wish to promote their Islamic project, which means consolidating their rule where they can, refraining from alienating the West, and avoiding perilous and precocious clashes with Israel. In this scheme, the presence of a Jewish state is and will remain intolerable, but it is probably the last piece of a larger puzzle that may never be fully assembled.
The quest to establish an independent, sovereign Palestinian state was never at the heart of the Islamist project. Hamas, the Palestinian chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood, harbors grander, less territorially confined but also less immediately achievable designs. Despite Hamas’s circumlocutions and notwithstanding its political evolution, it never truly deviated from its original view—the Jewish state is illegitimate and all the land of historic Palestine is inherently Islamic. If the current balance of power is not in your favor, wait and do what you can to take care of the disparity. The rest is tactics.
The following review of After Zionism by Hilary Aked appears in Ceasefire magazine:
The editors of this collection of essays – a Palestinian refugee born in Gaza and now based in the USA and an Australian anti-Zionist Jew – say they collaborated on this book “because of a shared belief that Jews and Palestinians are destined to live and work together, whatever our differences in background, ideals and daily life.”
This idea, that the fates of two peoples so often treated as existing in a state of perpetual enmity might actually be inextricably and very closely linked, is the backdrop to the broad argument asserted by After Zionism: that peace will come not only through justice and recognition of rights but through true equality and coexistence rather than an ideology of separation.
In some ways, the idea the book proposes tries to run before it can walk, outlining how and why contributors feel that a bi-national solution is now the most practical solution, before it has fully explored why it is also the most principled and exposed the ideology that blocks its path. Almost all the writers describe a transformation of the Palestinian struggle which they believe is or should be happening, namely a shift in focus from territory and self-determination to an emphasis on rights, crucially including the right of return for refugees. Only a few flip the puzzle over and reflect on the implications for the ‘other side’ and the state of Israel’s foundational concept, but Saree Makdisi is one, speaking of Israel’s struggle to preserve its “brittle, racist, outmoded ethno-religious colonial state project that is a fish out of water in the twenty-first century” and comparing it unfavourably with the new Palestinians struggle – one for equal rights, regardless of borders.
Makdisi’s contribution stands out for its eloquence and incisiveness, summing up the hopelessness of the two-state solution (reiterated by all the authors in similar fashion) with the killer question “What would a Palestinian state in the West Bank do for the residents of Araqib?” – referring to the village in the Israeli Negev (Naqab) desert where Palestinian Bedouin have had their homes demolished countless times. It is not only the refugees but ’48 Palestinians who remained in Israel – and quite possibly East Jerusalemites too – who would be abandoned by the formation of a Bantustan state in the West Bank and left to endure continued discrimination and vilification.
Sara Roy points out that the occupation “has long been comfortable if not profitable for the Israeli government” and also asserts that peace negotiations have served merely “to preclude establishment of a Palestinian state while the West Bank has steadily dissolved”, a view which seems all the more undeniable in light of Mitt Romney’s recent comments that his Middle East ‘strategy’ would be to “kick the ball down the field” and ignore the issue.
Other recurring themes throughout include echoes of the authors’ introductory sentiment that the Palestinian Authority is “a body designed to manage the occupation for Israel” and repeated exhortations for Palestinian unity to become an actuality. The internationalisation of the struggle and the potential of the still nascent (in the West at least) Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement are also prominent, Ahmed Moor critically stressing the psychological potency of BDS over its likely economic impact, saying that the boycott call’s primary power lies in the fact that it “makes it harder to ignore apartheid”.
The use of the word apartheid goes to the heart of the argument. Contributors to After Zionism believe that racism is the core problem and that the Israeli preoccupation with demography demonstrates the tension between Zionism – both in theory and practice – and universal rights, international law and democracy. Ahmed Moor’s beautifully written essay states the issue simply, suggesting that “One does not need to know the history of a century-long struggle to understand that something is deeply wrong with the reality today…. it is now enough to know that there are roads in the West Bank only for Israelis”. Yet he also emphasises history and refers to the ethnic cleansing of the Nakba as Israel’s “original sin”, following Ilan Pappe who is at pains to stress that “the crime continues” today and therefore believes a just peace will never come while Nakba denial is still rife in Israel and the world.
Moor writes that “the unacknowledged truth is that Palestine/Israel is already one country”. Practical realities such as Israel’s reliance on Palestinian water and other resources and a quick look at the numbers (one in five Israelis is not Jewish and one in six people in the West Bank is now an Israeli settler) indeed suggests to many that it is much too late for separation and that two states will never come about.
The revelations of the ‘Palestine Papers’ by Wikileaks were seminal, underlining this notion firmly. As Roy sees it, the Palestinians’ illegitimate leadership were shown to have “offered concessions well beyond the national consensus” – yet still these were rejected by Israel. The Palestinian ‘Freedom Riders’ who self-consciously drew a parallel with the civil rights movement in the USA, and used non-violent civil disobedience to oppose segregation perhaps best embody the new Palestinian movement that After Zionism is a part of too.
The book is a plea for a shift in the conversation from one about “how to achieve the unjust two-state solution” to one which focuses on upholding all people’s rights equally. Moor believes that Israel and its shrill demographers will act swiftly to enforce “the Bantustan [two-state] option” before any strong civil rights movement threatens to bring about a one-state solution, the imperative of preserving the Zionist nature of Israel being perhaps the only real incentive for Israel to withdraw from at least some areas of the West Bank. But Pappe alludes to another, even darker possibility, suggesting that another mass expulsion could be enacted to ensure Israel’s Jewish majority in spite of shifting population dynamics.
What might be called ‘the Norman Finkelstein question’ – the apparent impossibility of a one state solution ever being deemed acceptable by the powers that be – is not an easily answered one. Ghada Karmi acknowledges that the obstacles are huge and admits that it is “inescapably the case that both sides identify themselves as national communities with a right to self determination.” The idea of re-imagining and reconstituting the whole of historic Palestine into a secular state with equal rights for all is of course anathema to Zionists and is interpreted – perhaps disingenuously – as ‘delegitimization’ aimed at the ‘destruction’ of Israel but this ideology which is deeply entrenched well beyond Israel’s borders will not be overcome easily. Add to this the fact that most Palestinians do not at present view one state as a favourable or possible solution either, thanks to decades of oppression which have sewn distrust, grievance and ill-will widely and it seems faintly ridiculous.
But this book is nothing if not thought-provoking, in the best sense of the phrase. Without deliberately courting controversy, it is an attempt to mainstream a view that is indeed still quite marginal even though it has gained support in recent years largely due to the abject failure or all else – Karmi asks, “What is the alternative?”.
Makdisi admits that, in theory, a two state solution could fulfil all people’s rights – but rightly says that such a solution has never been the one on the cards, with instead vaguely defined entities up for debate. He then takes self-professed ‘pragmatists’ in the two state camp to task, writing: “Those who claim to be so realistic and pragmatic seem not to have even a passing familiarity with the documented empirical reality of historical experience which teaches us over and over again that no privileged group in the history of the world has ever voluntarily renounced its privileges”. Thus he demolishes the idea that one state is not feasible because ‘Israel will never accept it’, pointing out that Israel would no more accept any two state solution worth having.
After Zionism is an uncompromising book which boldly relinquishes nationalism in favour of human rights as an organising paradigm. Moor argues sensibly that any solution that doesn’t offer a just resolution to the refugee problem will not be ending the conflict and, as a collection, these essays point the way to a possibly rewarding and perhaps inevitable new direction for the Palestinian struggle.
After Zionism: One State for Israel and Palestine
Edited by Antony Loewenstein and Ahmed Moor
Imprint: Saqi Books
Published: July 2012
Reporters have been embedding with the US military (and other armies) for years, especially since 9/11. The results are usually pretty dismal, politically tone-deaf, pro-government and lacking criticism. Which is exactly how the military wants it.
Al Jazeera’s The Listening Post asked me to comment on this tradition (I appear around 22:34) and my previous appearances are here:
It’s an interesting and long argued detail, here by Colin Shindler in the New York Times. He makes some disturbing points but ignores the elephant in the room, the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and how that affects global attitudes towards Israel, Jews and Zionists:
Last week, Twitter shut down a popular account for posting anti-Semitic messages in France. This came soon after the firing of blanks at a synagogue near Paris, the discovery of a network of radical Islamists who had thrown a hand grenade into a kosher restaurant, and the killing of a teacher and young pupils at a Jewish school in Strasbourg earlier this year. The attacks were part of an escalating campaign of violence against Jews in France.
Today, a sizable section of the European left has been reluctant to take a clear stand when anti-Zionism spills over into anti-Semitism. Beginning in the 1990s, many on the European left began to view the growing Muslim minorities in their countries as a new proletariat and the Palestinian cause as a recruiting mechanism. The issue of Palestine was particularly seductive for the children of immigrants, marooned between identities.
Capitalism was depicted as undermining a perfect Islamic society while cultural imperialism corrupted Islam. The tactic has a distinguished revolutionary pedigree. Indeed, the cry, “Long live Soviet power, long live the Shariah,” was heard in Central Asia during the 1920s after Lenin tried to cultivate Muslim nationalists in the Soviet East once his attempt to spread revolution to Europe had failed. But the question remains: why do today’s European socialists identify with Islamists whose worldview is light-years removed from their own?
In recent years, there has been an increased blurring of the distinction between Jew, Zionist and Israeli. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the militant group Hezbollah, famously commented: “If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice I do not say the Israeli.”
Whereas historically Islam has often been benevolent toward Jews, compared to Christianity, many contemporary Islamists have evoked the idea of “the eternal Jew.” For example, the Battle of Khaybar in 629, fought by the Prophet Muhammad against the Jewish tribes, is recalled in victory chants at Hezbollah rallies: “Khaybar, Khaybar, O Jews, the army of Muhammad will return,” and the name Khaybar sometimes graces Hezbollah rockets aimed at Israel.
Many contemporary Islamists see little difference between the Jewish opponents of the prophet in seventh-century Arabia and Jews today. Importing old symbols of European anti-Semitism — depictions of Jews as enemies of God or proclamations of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy — has helped cement such imagery. If there is a distinction between Islamic anti-Judaism and modern anti-Semitism, it has been lost on French Islamists.
The fear of Jewish domination of the Middle East has become a repetitive theme in the Islamist media — which has become more influential as religious parties have gained ground in the wake of the Arab Spring. This is a factor in the general refusal of the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas to publicly meet members of the Israeli peace camp — a far cry from when Palestinian nationalists willingly negotiated with dovish Israelis before the 1993 handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat on the White House lawn.
Sometimes the left distinguishes between vulnerable European Jews who have been persecuted and latter-day “Prussians” in Israel. Yet it is often forgotten that a majority of Israelis just happen to be Jews, who fear therefore that what begins with the delegitimization of the state will end with the delegitimization of the people.
Such Israelophobia, enunciated by sections of the European left, dovetailed neatly with the rise of Islamism among Palestinians and throughout the Arab world. The Islamist obfuscation of “the Jew” mirrored the blindness of many a European Marxist. Despite the well-intentioned efforts of many Jews and Muslims to put aside their differing perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the offensive imagery of “the Jew” has persisted in many immigrant communities in Western Europe. Islamists were willing to share platforms with socialists and atheists, but not with Zionists.
The New Left’s profound opposition to American power, and the convergence of reactionary Islamists and unquestioning leftists was reflected in the million-strong London protest against the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It was organized by the Muslim Association of Britain, the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party and the Stalinist Communist Party of Britain. When some Muslims voiced apprehension about participating in the protest with non-Muslims, the M.A.B. leadership decreed that it was religiously permissible if halal food was provided and men and women were given separate areas. Such displays of “reactionary clericalism,” as the early Bolsheviks would have called it, were happily glossed over.
The Washington Post reports the largely hidden counter-terrorism policies of the Obama administration, without oversight, legal checks or balances and media scrutiny. There’s a word for this and it ain’t democracy.
Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the “disposition matrix.”
The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. U.S. officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the “disposition” of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.
Although the matrix is a work in progress, the effort to create it reflects a reality setting in among the nation’s counterterrorism ranks: The United States’ conventional wars are winding down, but the government expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years.
Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaeda continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight.
“We can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us,” a senior administration official said. “It’s a necessary part of what we do. . . . We’re not going to wind up in 10 years in a world of everybody holding hands and saying, ‘We love America.’ ”
That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism. Targeting lists that were regarded as finite emergency measures after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are now fixtures of the national security apparatus. The rosters expand and contract with the pace of drone strikes but never go to zero.
Meanwhile, a significant milestone looms: The number of militants and civilians killed in the drone campaign over the past 10 years will soon exceed 3,000 by certain estimates, surpassing the number of people al-Qaeda killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.
The Obama administration has touted its successes against the terrorist network, including the death of Osama bin Laden, as signature achievements that argue for President Obama’s reelection. The administration has taken tentative steps toward greater transparency, formally acknowledging for the first time the United States’ use of armed drones.
Less visible is the extent to which Obama has institutionalized the highly classified practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war. Spokesmen for the White House, the National Counterterrorism Center, the CIA and other agencies declined to comment on the matrix or other counterterrorism programs.
Privately, officials acknowledge that the development of the matrix is part of a series of moves, in Washington and overseas, to embed counterterrorism tools into U.S. policy for the long haul.
White House counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan is seeking to codify the administration’s approach to generating capture/kill lists, part of a broader effort to guide future administrations through the counterterrorism processes that Obama has embraced.
CIA Director David H. Petraeus is pushing for an expansion of the agency’s fleet of armed drones, U.S. officials said. The proposal, which would need White House approval, reflects the agency’s transformation into a paramilitary force, and makes clear that it does not intend to dismantle its drone program and return to its pre-Sept. 11 focus on gathering intelligence.
The U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, which carried out the raid that killed bin Laden, has moved commando teams into suspected terrorist hotbeds in Africa. A rugged U.S. outpost in Djibouti has been transformed into a launching pad for counterterrorism operations across the Horn of Africa and the Middle East.
In his windowless White House office, presidential counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan is compiling the rules for a war the Obama administration believes will far outlast its own time in office, whether that is just a few more months or four more years.
The “playbook,” as Brennan calls it, will lay out the administration’s evolving procedures for the targeted killings that have come to define its fight against al-Qaeda and its affiliates. It will cover the selection and approval of targets from the “disposition matrix,” the designation of who should pull the trigger when a killing is warranted, and the legal authorities the administration thinks sanction its actions in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and beyond.
“What we’re trying to do right now is to have a set of standards, a set of criteria, and have a decision-making process that will govern our counterterrorism actions — we’re talking about direct action, lethal action — so that irrespective of the venue where they’re taking place, we have a high confidence that they’re being done for the right reasons in the right way,” Brennan said in a lengthy interview at the end of August.
A burly 25-year CIA veteran with a stern public demeanor, Brennan is the principal architect of a policy that has transformed counterterrorism from a conventional fight centered in Afghanistan to a high-tech global effort to track down and eliminate perceived enemies one by one.
What was once a disparate collection of tactics — drone strikes by the CIA and the military, overhead surveillance, deployment of small Special Forces ground units at far-flung bases, and distribution of military and economic aid to threatened governments — has become a White House-centered strategy with Brennan at its core.
Four years ago, Brennan felt compelled to withdraw from consideration as President Obama’s first CIA director because of what he regarded as unfair criticism of his role in counterterrorism practices as an intelligence official during the George W. Bush administration. Instead, he stepped into a job in the Obama administration with greater responsibility and influence.
Brennan is leading efforts to curtail the CIA’s primary responsibility for targeted killings. Over opposition from the agency, he has argued that it should focus on intelligence activities and leave lethal action to its more traditional home in the military, where the law requires greater transparency. Still, during Brennan’s tenure, the CIA has carried out hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan and opened a new base for armed drones in the Arabian Peninsula.
Although he insists that all agencies have the opportunity to weigh in on decisions, making differing perspectives available to the Oval Office, Brennan wields enormous power in shaping decisions on “kill” lists and the allocation of armed drones, the war’s signature weapon.
When operations are proposed in Yemen, Somalia or elsewhere, it is Brennan alone who takes the recommendations to Obama for a final sign-off.
As the war against al-Qaeda and related groups moves to new locations and new threats, Brennan and other senior officials describe the playbook as an effort to constrain the deployment of drones by future administrations as much as it provides a framework for their expanded use in what has become the United States’ permanent war.
“This needs to be sustainable,” one senior administration official said, “and we need to think of it in ways that contemplate other people sitting in all the chairs around the table.”
DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti — Around the clock, about 16 times a day, drones take off or land at a U.S. military base here, the combat hub for the Obama administration’scounterterrorism wars in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East.
Some of the unmanned aircraft are bound for Somalia, the collapsed state whose border lies just 10 miles to the southeast. Most of the armed drones, however, veer north across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen, another unstable country where they are being used in an increasingly deadly war with an al-Qaeda franchise that has targeted the United States.
Camp Lemonnier, a sun-baked Third World outpost established by the French Foreign Legion, began as a temporary staging ground for U.S. Marines looking for a foothold in the region a decade ago. Over the past two years, the U.S. military has clandestinely transformed it into the busiest Predator drone base outside the Afghan war zone, a model for fighting a new generation of terrorist groups.
The Obama administration has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal the legal and operational details of its targeted-killing program. Behind closed doors, painstaking debates precede each decision to place an individual in the cross hairs of the United States’ perpetual war against al-Qaeda and its allies.
Increasingly, the orders to find, track or kill those people are delivered to Camp Lemonnier. Virtually the entire 500-acre camp is dedicated to counterterrorism, making it the only installation of its kind in the Pentagon’s global network of bases.
Secrecy blankets most of the camp’s activities. The U.S. military rejected requests from The Washington Post to tour Lemonnier last month. Officials cited “operational security concerns,” although they have permitted journalists to visit in the past.
After a Post reporter showed up in Djibouti uninvited, the camp’s highest-ranking commander consented to an interview — on the condition that it take place away from the base, at Djibouti’s lone luxury hotel. The commander, Army Maj. Gen. Ralph O. Baker, answered some general queries but declined to comment on drone operations or missions related to Somalia or Yemen.
Despite the secrecy, thousands of pages of military records obtained by The Post — including construction blueprints, drone accident reports and internal planning memos — open a revealing window into Camp Lemonnier.None of the documents is classified and many were acquired via public-records requests.
Taken together, the previously undisclosed documents show how the Djibouti-based drone wars sharply escalated early last year after eight Predators arrived at Lemonnier. The records also chronicle the Pentagon’s ambitious plan to further intensify drone operations here in the coming months.
The documents point to the central role played by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which President Obama has repeatedly relied on to execute the nation’s most sensitive counterterrorism missions.
About 300 Special Operations personnel plan raids and coordinate drone flights from inside a high-security compound at Lemonnier that is dotted with satellite dishes and ringed by concertina wire. Most of the commandos work incognito, concealing their names even from conventional troops on the base.
Other counterterrorism work at Lemonnier is more overt. All told, about 3,200 U.S. troops, civilians and contractors are assigned to the camp, where they train foreign militaries, gather intelligence and dole out humanitarian aid across East Africa as part of a campaign to prevent extremists from taking root.
In Washington, the Obama administration has taken a series of steps to sustain the drone campaign for another decade, developing an elaborate new targeting database, called the “disposition matrix,” and a classified “playbook” to spell out how decisions on targeted killing are made.
Djibouti is the clearest example of how the United States is laying the groundwork to carry out these operations overseas. For the past decade, the Pentagon has labeled Lemonnier an “expeditionary,” or temporary, camp. But it is now hardening into the U.S. military’s first permanent drone war base.
Wikileaks remains utterly relevant to understanding our world. The evidence? Yet more releases about US detainee policies since 9/11. Here’s Julian Assange talking about its importance on CNN:
The kind of stories that real journalists should be doing but so rarely do. America is land of the free? More like country of mass imprisonment. Here’s Democracy Now!:
We turn now to a major new investigation by Shane Bauer, one of three Americans detained in 2009 while hiking in Iraq’s Kurdish region near the Iranian border. He and Josh Fattal were held for 26 months in Iran, and Sarah Shourd—now Shane’s wife—was held for 13 months, most of it in solitary confinement.
Well, seven months after being freed from prison in Iran, Shane Bauer began investigating solitary confinement in the United States. Now, his first major articlesince his release, he finds California prisoners are being held for years in isolation based on allegations they’re connected to prison gangs. Evidence against them might include possession of, quote, “black literature” or writings about prisoners’ rights. Shane’s report appears on the cover of the new issue of Mother Jonesmagazine. It’s called: “Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. [Then] I Went Inside America’s Prisons.” “We throw thousands of men in the hole for the books they read, the company they keep, the beliefs they hold. Here’s why.”