United States air strikes in Somalia were meant to kill specific al Qaeda leaders. Whether the bombs achieved this effect is still uncertain but we know one thing: that it will be much easier for al Qaeda to recruit the next generation of Somali terrorists. From the NY Times, “Airstrike Rekindles Somalis’ Anger at the U.S.”:http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/10/world/africa/10somalia.html?_r=2&ref=world&oref=slogin&oref=slogin. Sigh.
Voices for Creative Nonviolence is doing some organizing around the fighting in Lebanon/Israel/Gaza. Check out “Beyond the Escalation of Injustice”:vcnv.org/beyond-the-escalation-of-injustice which calls for “direct engagement.“
Through them I found a link to “Jihad Against Hezbollah”:www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/3412, the new piece from Steven Zunes, a very knowledgable writer for Foreign Policy in Focus. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet (this afternoon on the train) but it looks like good background material on the group.
In the New York Times, a “glimpse behind the scenes of the Bush Administration’s support for war in Lebanon”:www.nytimes.com/2006/08/10/washington/10rice.html:
bq.. Washington’s resistance to an immediate cease-fire and its staunch support of Israel have made it more difficult for [US “Secretary of State”:www.nonviolence.org/tag/secretary%20of%20state] Rice to work with other nations, including some American allies, as they search for a formula that will end the violence and produce a durable cease-fire.…
Several State Department officials have privately objected to the administration’s emphasis on Israel and have said that Washington is not talking to Syria to try to resolve the crisis. Damascus has long been a supporter of “Hezbollah”:www.nonviolence.org/tag/hezbollah, and previous conflicts between the group and Israel have been resolved through shuttle diplomacy with Syria.
p. The wars in “Lebanon”:www.nonviolence.org/tag/lebanon and “Iraq”:www.nonviolence.org/tag/iraq are causing irreparable harm to the U.S. image in the Middle East. High-sounding words about democracy ring hollow when we forsake diplomacy.
It seems that every day brings new revelations from mainstream media about governmental spying on Americans.
MS-NBC started the ball rolling on the 14th when they informed us that the Pentagon had a database of “protesters including the Raging Grannies and a dozen or so Quakers in Florida”:http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10454316. This must have prompted the New York Times to publish a story they had been sitting on for a year: the scoop that Bush had ordered the super-secret “National Security Agency to start evesdropping on Americans”:http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/15/politics/15cnd-program.html following the 9/11 terror attacks. It’s revelation was an FBI agent’s email complaining about “radical militant librarians [who] kick us around”:http://www.ala.org/al_onlineTemplate.cfm?Section=alonline&template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=111469. Two days later we received the almost-humorous news that the Department of Homeland Security was hard at work monitoring the “Massachusett’s inter-library loan system “:http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/12 [UPDATE: this has been “revealed to be a hoax”:http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/12–05/12–24-05/a01lo719.htm by the student]. Trying to outdo the DHS in ridiculous, we learned on the 20th that “the FBI has been infiltrating vegan potlucks”:http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/20/politics/20fbi.html. Today it turns out the “New York City Police Department”:http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/22/nyregion/22police.html has been doing its own extensive investigations into protesters. They even apparently staged mock arrests in an attempt to incite violence (their contribution to the self-parody has been to send officers undercover on bicycle protests).
Are we surprised by all this? Well, not really. The fears unleashed after 9/11 ignited a firestorm of paranoia in the ranks of spydom. Nonviolence.org got a call from the U.S. Secret Service when Osama bin Laden posted to the board that he wanted to kill President Bush (well, actually we’re pretty certain it was a acne-faced fourteen year old procrastinating on his geometry homework). When I shot “shot photos of a scuffle at a Biodemocracy protest a few months ago”:http://www.nonviolence.org/articles/2005/06/biodemocracy_pr.php a Philadelphia police detective was in my office an hour later wanting to see it (the “melee” was harmless except for a policeman with heart conditions who took that moment to have a heart attack).
While some monitoring and prudence is indeed necessary, what ties together the string of stories this week is the randomness of the targets. It’s as if the agencies had lost all sense of judgement. Anyone critical of the war (or even mainstream culture: witness the vegans) was considered a threat. All leads were investigated, no matter how silly.
While invading American’s privacy is upsetting and unwarranted, the greatest danger is the sheer mass of irrelevant information that’s been collected. What’s an agency to do with reams of data on bicycle riders and Quakers? Who’s watching the flight schools and fertilizer depots while Agent Nincompoop is trading hummus recipes with the cute vegan with the nosering?