United for Peace of Pierce County, WA - We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy.

NEWS & COMMENT: US weapons & ammo airdropped to Kurds fall into hands of ISIS

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It was as predictable as it was inevitable.  --  Neatly boxed hand grenades, ammunition, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers airdropped by the U.S. and intended for beleaguered Kurds in Kobani have fallen into the hands of those fighting for the Islamic State, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.[1]  --  An AP-validated video uploaded to the Internet shows an ISIS fighter taking possession of the cache of weapons, still attached to its parachute.  --  The Pentagon initially denied that anything of the sort had happened, but later admitted that it was "not out of the realm of the possible," the BBC said.[2]  --  BACKGROUND:  The BBC published an accompanying graphic according to which the U.S. made 541 air strikes on ISIS between Aug. 8 and Oct. 20.  --  The cost:  about $1 billion.  --  On Tuesday, Foreign Policy devoted an analysis of the "rapidly intensifying" U.S. engagement in the battle for Kobani.[3]  --  Kate Brannen and Gopal Ratnam said that "The media attention paid to Kobani has baffled U.S. defense officials at times, and they've pointed to towns in Iraq -- like Hit -- that have recently fallen into the Islamic State's hands with little notice."  --  But the difference is obvious:  Kobani, located on the border with Turkey, offers journalists a safe vantage point for filming the battle and the dramatic photographs that are the result.  --  Is this any way to run foreign policy?  --  On Oct. 2, in a statement titled "A Dumb War," UFFPC said:  "Engaging the United States in an open-ended war with undefined objectives is quintessentially unwise."  --  It is inevitable that bad decisions like upping the ante in Kobani flow from that engagement....

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COMMENTARY: Leslie Gelb calls on US 'to work with Bashar Assad’s Syria, and with Iran'

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On Saturday a commentator with a distinguished record in academia, journalism, and government argued that "In the short term the only way to check ISIS . . . is for the United States to work with Bashar Assad’s Syria, and with Iran."[1]  --  Leslie Gelb, who was a McNamara protégé at the Dept. of Defense in the 1960s, a diplomatic correspondent for the New York Times and assistant secretary of state in the Carter administration in the 1970s, a prize-winning author in the 1980s, and president of the Council on Foreign Relations in the 1990s, accused the Obama administration of indulging in "its usual wishful thinking" in fantasizing that the Iraqi army or Syrian "moderate" rebels can be turned into an effective fighting forces.  --  "Only Assad’s Syria and Iran can and would provide plausible ground forces in short order," Gelb said.  --  "Moscow could help facilitate cooperation between Syria, Iran and the U.S., not because Mr. Putin is kind-hearted, but because it is in his obvious interest."  --  And working with these powers opens "potential avenues for cooperation worth testing and pursuing."  --  Gelb concluded by pointing out that working with unsavory allies is nothing new for the United States.  --  Gelb's realist opinion was noted in a USA Today survey on Sunday.  --  Other opinions included Fareed Zakaria's advocacy of "containment" as an "actually achievable" anti-ISIS strategy, K.T. McFarland's view that the U.S. has "a lot of options," other than going to war, Dina Badie's opinion that "supporting 'moderate' Syrian rebels . . . is counterproductive," and Sheldon Richman's notion that "The best way to avoid terrorism is to stop dropping bombs on Muslims."[2] ...

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WARS R US: No vote, but $1 billion already spent as Pentagon prepares long war against Islamic State

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Preparing for a long war against the Islamic State, the U.S. Dept. of Defense is "preparing to set up a more formally organized command structure, known in military parlance as a joint task force, to lead and coordinate the campaign from a forward headquarters, perhaps in Kuwait," the Associated Press reported Friday.[1]  --  "On Wednesday it formally named the campaign 'Operation Inherent Resolve,'" Robert Burns and Lolita C. Baldor said.  --  U.S. Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, the 61-year-old African-American who has been Commander of CENTCOM for the past 18 months, said at a press conference in the Pentagon that "The campaign to destroy ISIL will take time, and there will be occasional setbacks along the way."  --  Burns and Baldor offered no estimate of what the new war will cost, but a few weeks ago the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis reported that about $1 billion had already been spent.[2] ...

Last Updated on Saturday, 18 October 2014 06:04 Read more...
 

NEWS: Islamic State reportedly training pilots to fly MiGs

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Reuters posted an article Friday reporting that a spokesman for the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is saying that "Iraqi pilots who have joined Islamic State in Syria are training members of the group to fly in three captured fighter jets."[1]  --  "[I]f the report is confirmed, this would be the first time it has been able to pilot warplanes," Sylvia Westall said.  --  The planes are said to be MiG-21s or MiG-23s captured from the Syrian military, and they are said to be flown from the captured al-Jarrah military airport east of Aleppo.  --  A spokesman for CENTCOM said that the U.S. was "not aware" of such flights.  --  AFP also reported on the assertion, adding that "Witnesses have reported seeing planes flying at a low altitude to avoid detection by radar after taking off from Jarrah" and that "The jihadists also control two other airports in Syria -- Albu Kamal near the Iraqi border and Tabqa in Raqa province."[2]  --  The Associated Press also led its Friday piece on the Islamic State with the report, but devoted most of its report to news about the Isalmic state offensives targeting Kobani on the Syria-Turkey border and the Iraqi city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province.[3]  --  BACKGROUND:  The MiG-23 is a Soviet plane designed to rival fighters like the F-4 Phantom, which can carry nine tons of weapons and fly at Mach 2.2, and which was used extensively in Vietnam.  --  The MiG-21 is also a supersonic fighter jet that is still in service in many countries....

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BACKGROUND: Violence 'back to levels of 2006-07,' Iraq 'in last stages of disintegration' (Patrick Cockburn)

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Barack Obama's plan for Iraq to form a more "inclusive" government and fight ISIS is failing utterly as Shia militias enjoying total immunity take revenge on any Sunni civilians they detain, the London Independent reported Tuesday.[1]  --  "[S]ince the militias treat all Sunni men as ISIS fighters or supporters, the Sunni are left with no choice but to stick with the jihadi militants," said veteran Mideast reporter Patrick Cockburn.  --  He concluded:  "The inability of the Baghdad government to field a national army and its reliance on militias means that Iraq is in the last stages of disintegration.  --  The few mixed Sunni-Shia areas are disappearing.  --  In places where the army and militias have retaken towns such as Amerli, north of Baghdad, the inhabitants of nearby Sunni villages have fled.  --  The final break-up of Iraq has become a fact." ...

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FILM: Two reviews of Laura Poitras's new Snowden documentary, 'Citizenfour'

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Spencer Ackerman, it will probably come as no surprise, thinks Laura Poitras's new documentary about Edward Snowden "crackle[s] with the nervous energy of revelation."[1]  --  "Given the passions that the NSA disclosures have generated, it’s remarkable how tempered 'Citizenfour' comes across," he says in his London Guardian review.  --  And it will also probably come as no surprise that George Packer, in a long New Yorker profile of Laura Poitras that is also a review of the film, thinks otherwise.[2]  --  Packer's snide review is full of insinuations.  --  "Citizenfour" is a film by a woman who is worried about "being accused of being paranoid or crazy."  --  "Poitras is so close to her subject, politically and psychologically."  --  Substantively, he thinks "Citizenfour" doesn't recognize "how difficult the trade-off between liberty and security can be in a democratic society."  --  Packer is not really much interested, though, in what the NSA is doing, whereas he is quite interested in using what he considers Poitras's "strange social world" to turn the average reader's sympathies against her.  --  As for Edward Snowden, Packer turns his intelligence and articulateness into suspicious traits:  Snowden's writing has "the stilted feel of a manifesto written in isolation" and he speaks in "hyper-rational, oddly formal sentences."  --  (Cf. Richard Hofstadter's Anti-Intellectualism in American Life.)  --  Apparently seeking subliminal effects, Packer even works in the words "conspiracy theorist" and "traitor."  --  In a remarkable sentence that says much about him and even more about our time, Packer says that Edward Snowden "presents his motives as so high-minded and public-spirited that they never become interesting."  --  O tempora o mores! ...

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NEWS: Obama adviser signals let-up on Russia sanctions

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A key Obama adviser said at a Friday press briefing that talks with Russia on easing sanctions could begin in weeks if the Ukraine cease-fire continues to make progress, Reuters reported.[1]  --  COMMENT: With the problem of ISIS looking graver with each passing day, the U.S.'s need for Russian cooperation, and European economic woes that are worsened by war of sanctions between the E.U. and Russia and that are weakening the world economy, economic expansion into Ukraine appears less geopolitically advantageous than it did earlier in the year.  --  The fall in the price of oil (the November 2014 futures contract Brent crude was below $90 a barrel on Thursday) is also impacting Russia's economy, moderating Moscow's willingness to be confrontational....

Last Updated on Saturday, 11 October 2014 23:26 Read more...
 

NEWS & BACKGROUND: Islamic State taking northern border town as Turkey looks on

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The United States has ruled out a ground operation to come to the aid of Kurds who have for three weeks been battling the Islamic State in Kobani, a town in northern Syria, and Ankara has said that "It is not realistic to expect Turkey to conduct a ground operation on its own," Reuters reported Thursday.[1]  --  The U.S. is continuing air strikes, but ISIS continues to advance and has seized "more than a third of the Syrian border town," Daren Butler and Oliver Holmes said.  --  "[T]he town's defenders say the battle will end in a massacre if Islamic State prevails, giving it a strategic garrison on the Turkish border."  --  According to Foreign Policy, bad blood between Turkey and Kurdish groups that have been fighting Turkey for decades is the root cause for Turkey's stance vis-à-vis the Islamic State's three-week-old siege of Kobani.[2]  --  Turkey appears to have been trying to leverage the situation in order to force the PKK to make concessions despite a promise to help Kurds defend the Syrian town, and also to push the U.S. to target Assad's regime as well as the Islamic State, David Kenner said on Wednesday....

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 October 2014 16:23 Read more...
 

NEWS: Leon Panetta says US in 'a kind of 30-year war' with ISIS

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In an interview published Monday, Leon Panetta, a former CIA director and former secretary of defense, told USA Today's Susan Page that the war against ISIS will be "a kind of 30-year war."[1]  --  Panetta wholeheartedly endorsed such a war, saying:  "I really believe in the president's power as commander-in-chief to protect this country."  --  President Obama was "right" to "take us to war against ISIS," he said.  --  ISIS "may not be al-Qaeda," he said, but "they represent the fanaticism, the terrorism, they represent the kind of evil nature of that kind of Islamic extremism that is just as dangerous as al-Qaeda."  --  "We very well may need special forces" on the ground in Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS, Panetta said.  --  Despite his criticism of Obama's leadership, he said the president "may have found himself again with regards to this ISIS crisis."  --  COMMENT: The attitudes and beliefs expressed by Leon Panetta -- indeed, his very career -- and the respectful way they are endorsed by USA Today reflect the fact that constitutional government in the United States has collapsed and been replaced by agencies of the national security state.  --  Agencies supposedly directed by the president and overseen by Congress in fact constitute a permanent, unelected deep state that along with corporations, which increasingly perform its outsourced functions, determine the long-term policies of the country.  --  These national security state institutions, created in the years following World War II and constantly growing despite President Dwight Eisenhower's warning in his prescient 1961 farewell address, define issues, manipulate media, and present policies to be rubber-stamped by compliant "leaders."  --  Thus Panetta, despite his years in Congress, is perfectly happy to have a president embark on a "30-year war" without any congressional vote....

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NEWS: Some in Pentagon want to name new war 'Operation Hey That's My Humvee'

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In an article that reads like something from the Onion, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday on the search by poets in the Pentagon for a name worthy of the nation's latest war.  --  American warriors have been assaulting the Islamic State for two months now, but the mission still lacks a name.  --  Some think that the reluctance to name the war is an expression of the administration's sense of having a war foisted on them that they didn't want.  --  They'll find one someday, but in the meantime military spokespersons are refusing to acknowledge "that the namelessness is unusual," Julian E. Barnes said.[1]  --  If humans fail to find a name, computers may be called in:  "A Pentagon computer program, the Code Word, Nickname and Exercise Term System, or NICKA, keeps track of previous efforts and sets parameters for future ones."  --  "In the absence of an official name, alternatives are bouncing around the halls of the Pentagon.  --  One top suggestion takes note of how U.S. bombing raids are targeting U.S.-made equipment nabbed by Islamic State fighters.  --  The suggestion:  Operation Hey That’s My Humvee." ...

Last Updated on Monday, 06 October 2014 23:33 Read more...
 

LECTURE & MUSIC: Sid Olufs to speak, Nebels sing about US inequality -- in Tacoma, Thurs. @7pm

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In the first of a three-lecture series sponsored by the Dickens Festival at Stadium on poverty in the 21st century, Prof. Sid Olufs of Pacific Lutheran University will speak on Thurs., Oct. 9, at 7:00 p.m. at Kings Books in Tacoma.  --  The title of his talk:  "The Shifting Story of Inequality in the United States."[1]  --  Steve and Kristi Nebel will also perform.  --  This event is free and open to the public....

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INTERVIEW: 'US created the very threat that it claims to be fighting' (Jeremy Scahill)

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Taking a longer view of the current war against the Islamic State, Jeremy Scahill said in a Democracy Now! interview Friday that "the United States, through its policies, created the very threat that it claims to be fighting now, and in continuing this policy, what President Obama is doing is embracing the very lies that made the Cheney-Bush Iraq War possible."[1]  --  "And in the process," Scahill added, Obama is "creating yet another generation of people in the Islamic world who are going to grow up in a society where they believe that their religion is being targeted . . . this is sort of an epic formula for blowback."  --  Scahill also described a number of Orwellian redefinitions of words ("imminent"; "innocent civilian") that help the U.S. present the consequences of its military attacks as palatable....

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NEWS: In escalation, US troops near Baghdad using Apache attack helicopters against ISIS

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In fighting near Baghdad, U.S. troops are using Apache AH-64 attack helicopters in offensive operations against ISIS for the first time since the Boeing-built helicopters were deployed to Iraq, ABC News reported Sunday.[1]  --  When sent to Iraq in July 2014, the Apaches were said to be for defending American personnel in Iraq.  --  "Any restrictions on their use for offensive purposes were presumably lifted in early September when President Obama announced that offensive air strikes could be used against ISIS targets," Luis Martinez speculated.  --  "The aircraft are . . . vulnerable to small arms and missile fire," he noted  --  COMMENT:  Martinez also alluded euphemistically to the Iraqi army's striking inability to repel ISIS's attacks, saying that "In recent weeks Iraqi security forces have struggled against ISIS forces that have attacked several cities in Anbar Province west of Baghdad.  --   ISIS victories there could pose an even greater security threat to Iraq’s capital."  --  But ABC did not comment on a McClatchy Newspapers account published this weekend according to which that such victories have already occurred; according to McClatchy, ISIS controls the streets in Abu Ghraib, just west of the center of Baghdad.  --  Turning to Apache helicopters seems a clear sign of how concerned the Pentagon is about ISIS's advance on Baghdad.  --  The Apache, which can fire Hellfire missiles and is sometimes called "the Angel of Death," has been called a "revolutionary development in the history of war," being essentially "a flying tank -- a helicopter designed to survive heavy attack and inflict massive damage. . . . it is a terrifying machine to ground forces." ...

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NEWS: US to require reimbursement for support to France's African military operations

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The Pentagon has decided to demand that France reimburse the U.S. for further military or intel support to its Opération Barkhane, the successor to Opération Serval, which since January 2013 has had France fighting in Mali in coordination with a United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA) in Mali, Niger, and Chad, AFP reported Friday.[1]  --  The U.S. decision, revealed by anonymous sources, "came only a few days before France's defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, arrived in Washington for talks at the Pentagon on Thursday," Oct. 2.  --  "It was unclear what effect Washington's decision would have on France's military operations in Africa," AFP said.  --  As for the U.S., "[r]obotic drone planes and other surveillance aircraft are a coveted commodity for military commanders and the new air war in Syria and Iraq could force the Pentagon to redeploy spy planes in West Africa to the Middle East."  --  BACKGROUND:  A motive for French military operations in Africa  that typically goes unmentioned in corporate media is the protection of uranium supplies France needs for the operation of the 58 nuclear reactors that produce more than three quarters of France's electricity, as well as for France's nuclear weapons program.  --  France's last domestic uranium mine closed in 2001.  --  Since then, the 8,000 tons of uranium France needs annually is imported, principally from Australia, Canada, or Niger.  --  Niger's largest mine, Arlit, is not far from the border with Mali.  --  It was developed by the French government and its uranium production is processed and transported (through the port of Cotonou, in Bénin) by the French company Areva, the world's largest nuclear company, whose operations in Niger are protected directly by French military forces.  --  Uranium represents 90% of Niger's export earnings....

Last Updated on Sunday, 05 October 2014 17:21 Read more...
 

NEWS: Several sources place ISIS on outskirts of Baghdad

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A survey of press reports on the situation around Baghdad yields little unanimity on Saturday.  --  Patrick Cockburn, the London Independent's longtime Mideast correspondent, reported that despite sustained airstrikes by the U.S. and allied forces, " ISIS is "still able to operate effectively" and was conducting offensives in several areas.[1]  --  The Iraqi army, he said, had been unable able to reinforce a base under attack by ISIS in late September only 40 miles from Baghdad, where, in an assault that began on Sept. 21, the group "overran a base at Saqlawiya, near Fallujah, west of Baghdad after besieging it for a week.  --  The final assault was preceded, as is customary with ISIS attacks, by multiple suicide bombing attacks.  --  A bomber driving a captured American Humvee packed with explosives was able to penetrate the base before blowing himself up.  --  This was followed up by an ISIS assault team dressed in Iraqi army uniforms.  --  Some 820 government soldiers stationed at the base broke up into small groups and fled by backroads but were ambushed."  --  Corroborating Cockburn's article was a McClatchy piece on ISIS's "week of victories," reporting from several sources that ISIS "controls the streets" in Abu Ghraib, on the outskirts of Baghdad, is in artillery range of Baghdad International Airport and Baghdad itself.[2]  --  But so far Mitchell Prothero's reporting is finding no echo in mainstream sources like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, which are not featuring reports on ISIS's advance near the Iraqi capital.  --  As for Fox News, on Friday it spoke of the " fear that ISIS terrorists are on the outskirts of Iraq’s capital," but did not attempt to assess the actual situation there.[3]  --  An evaluation of the situation around Baghdad was also conspicuously lacking in an article posted Saturday by the Associated Press.[4] ...

Last Updated on Sunday, 05 October 2014 07:40 Read more...
 

UFPPC statement: A dumb war

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UNITED FOR PEACE OF PIERCE COUNTY

"We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."

A DUMB WAR

October 2, 2014

The Islamic State’s proclaimed caliphate constitutes a pressing international problem.  But an American-led military coalition is not the appropriate international response.

Last Updated on Friday, 03 October 2014 06:38 Read more...
 

ANALYSIS: War on ISIS could cost U.S. $1.8 billion a month

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The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments said this week that the new U.S. war in Iraq and Syria has already cost American taxpayers about $800 million, and that  an extended campaign could cost one or two billion dollars a month, Common Dreams reported Wednesday.[1]  --  "The Pentagon is currently funding the attack through a controversial war fund, dubbed the Overseas Contingency Operations account, which is exempt from federal budget caps," Lauren McCauley said....

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NEWS: Pentagon says most of ISIS's oil refineries demolished

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A Pentagon official, speaking anonymously, claimed that sixteen of about twenty oil refineries controlled by the Islamic State in eastern and northern Syria were "demolished" on Sept. 24 and Sept. 28 by airstrikes, the Washington Times reported Tuesday.[1]  --  Oil trafficking has been the jihadist group's main source of revenue, as the Financial Times of London reported on Sept. 22.  --  Speaking "on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Istanbul," Luay al-Khatteeb, the director of the Iraq Energy Institute, said that ISIS's revenues have been dramatically reduced, International Business Times reported.[2]  --  But the cash flow that pays ISIS's soldiers' salaries is still "undetected," Erin Banco said.  --  "Khatteeb said ISIS is still refining oil in small-scale, mobile refineries that are difficult to detect," according to Banco.  --  "Some of that oil, he said, is continuing to get smuggled into Turkey.  --  The small, handmade refineries produce about 5,000 barrels at a time, he said, which is used mostly for heating and transportation."  --  Further progress in undermining ISIS's oil trading depends on cooperation from Turkish and Kurdish authorities, but this is hard to monitor.  --  So far oil fields (as opposed to refineries) are not on the U.S. target list, because "[t]he underground resources belong to the Syrian people, and they would likely suffer long-term damage and a decline in their productive capacity if they were attacked," and there is also concern about the environmental damage that this would cause, Foreign Policy reported last week.[3] ...

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BACKGROUND: Why the Senate torture report is so important

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In anticipation of the release of the 6,000-page Senate Intelligence Committee's report on CIA torture that has been at the center of an extraordinary and important power struggle over the past five years, Rob Crawford of UW Tacoma reviewed in an article posted this weekend on the CounterPunch website the reasons the report's publication will be so important.  --  "From 2002 to 2009, hundreds of people were tortured and hundreds more subjected to cruel, inhuman. and degrading treatment," Crawford said.[1]  --  "There have been over 100 deaths of people in detention, many likely to be a direct result of torture.  --  The torture and abuse went on for years."  --  With the release of the Senate report, "human rights and other civic organizations, dissenting journalists, religious organizations, the newly radicalized legal profession, and humane people everywhere have an opportunity to work against the semi-coerced silencing of critical debate not only about torture but also about the link between torture, militarism, and all inhumane acts of war." ...

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BACKGROUND: The strange story behind the 'Khorasan' group's name

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Some analysts believe that the Pentagon made up the term "Khorasan group," which is not recognized by those engaged in combat in Syria or by close observers of it, the Washington Post reported Thursday.[1]  --  Why would they?  --  "[I]t's easy to see why it could be a positive for U.S. officials to use it," Adam Taylor said.  --  "For one thing, by avoiding using the name al-Qaeda, the U.S. doesn't remind the world that after more than a decade of the 'War on Terror,' al-Qaeda is still an operational force.  --  It also allows the U.S. to avoid mention of strikes on Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda group that enjoys a large amount of support in Syria and opposes both the Islamic State and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  --  Finally, there's the simple fact that Khorasan is a new and evocative name.  --  Frankly, it's something for the U.S. public to latch onto." ...

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BACKGROUND: The Islamic State is 'a kind of untamed Wahhabism'

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Most of Western mainstream media describe ISIS (a.k.a. ISIL, a.k.a. the Islamic State) either as a version of al-Qaeda, barbarism, evil incarnate, or some combination of these, but on Thursday the New York Times carried a background piece offering a calm account of Islamic State thinking.  --  ISIS has "clear roots" in Wahhabism, an 18th-century Islamic revival movement that is the foundation of the Saudi state, David Kirkpatrick said.[1]  --  In fact, the Islamic State "circulates images of Wahhabi religious textbooks from Saudi Arabia in the schools it controls."  --  But Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (who on Jun. 29 declared himself the Caliph Ibrahim) has added two elements to Wahhabi ideology:  a liberation movement aimed at Western imperialism, and the restored caliphate as an actual political goal.  --  Barack Obama would like to assimilate ISIS to al-Qaeda in order to claim that the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) applies to it, but in fact ISIS's approach is "is at odds with the more mainstream Islamist and jihadist thinking that forms the genealogy of Al Qaeda, and it has led to a fundamentally different view of violence."   --  Al Qaeda views Muslim states and societies as having fallen into sinful unbelief and embraces violence as a tool to redeem them, but "the Wahhabi tradition embrace[s] the killing of those deemed unbelievers as essential to purifying the community of the faithful."  --  Prof. Emad Shahin of Georgetown said that the Islamic State "is not al-Qaeda, but far to its right." ...

Last Updated on Saturday, 27 September 2014 06:32 Read more...
 
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Meeting schedule

United for Peace of Pierce County meets 7:00-8:30 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of every month at First United Methodist Church in Tacoma (621 Tacoma Avenue South).

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