Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
November 06, 2013

"If they can't prove they're Taliban, bam"

In 2010 Seymour Hersh gave a talk in Geneva. In one part he said:
What they've done in the field now is, they tell the troops, you have to make a determination within a day or two or so whether or not the prisoners you have, the detainees, are Taliban. You must extract whatever tactical intelligence you can get, as opposed to strategic, long-range intelligence, immediately. And if you cannot conclude they're Taliban, you must turn them free. What it means is, and I've been told this anecdotally by five or six different people, battlefield executions are taking place. Well, if they can't prove they're Taliban, bam. If we don't do it ourselves, we turn them over to the nearby Afghan troops and by the time we walk three feet the bullets are flying. And that's going on now.
As Matthieu Aikins reports in Rolling Stone this was still going on three years later and is likely going on today:
By February 2013, the locals claimed 10 civilians had been taken by U.S. Special Forces and had subsequently disappeared, while another eight had been killed by the team during their operations.
The men were kept for two nights, one of which they spent in a suffocating shipping container, before most of them were released, including Hekmatullah, who says Kandahari and an American soldier had selected who would be set free. When Hekmatullah, a 16-year-old student, finally came home, his family was overjoyed and hoped that Esmatullah and Sediqullah would soon be released too. They never saw them again.
A similar roundup occurred on December 6th in the nearby village of Deh Afghanan, after which another four men who were taken to the American base went missing.
After the U.S. special forces left the base the locals dug up corpse near the base. Those were the men who had vanished. Aikins found eyewitnesses who confirmed some of the killings. Others can be concluded on by the circumstances.

If such things were to happen once it probably could be excused as one bad apple unit running wild. But this stuff has happened over years again and again, in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan. It is policy and a bad one.

Since the second world war the United States did not win one of the many wars it waged. How much is such outrageous behavior against the locals, which also happened in the Korean and Vietnam war, responsible for that?

Posted by b on November 6, 2013 at 14:55 UTC | Permalink


from Lt Col Nagl: "The Joint Special Operations Command is an almost industrial-scale counterterrorism killing machine."

Posted by: wevin | Nov 6 2013 15:01 utc | 1

soldiers are trained to kill. they play the opposite roll of a's no surprise americans are hated in so many of the countries they've invaded..

Posted by: james | Nov 6 2013 16:35 utc | 2

Like their friends, the "Israelis", the cowardly dumbass Yankees have been, and always will be their own worst enemy. They'll keep pretending they want to stay in AfPak until one their (non-existent) military geniuses figures out how to get out (Imran Khan seems to be just as keen to see the Pest Exterminators dish out a good genociding, as I am).
The whole idea of invading another country to vandalise it and torture & murder people who don't want you there is utterly psychotic.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Nov 6 2013 16:44 utc | 3

Empires bring no good to anyone, including themselves. The Soviet Empire did a world of good to many. In Kabul, women went to school and worked. Many young men and women went abroad to study. One woman became a general, and she is actually still general until today. But the Soviet Empire did not understand that one cannot barge into a society, change them overnight in your own image, and call it a day. The revolt by the countryside was then exploited by the American empire. Now, the American empire sits on the same Afghan perch, teaching them how to be what they are not. We can put drones in the sky to kill women gathering wood at dawn, wedding parties, funerals, kids' slumber parties, or vehicles that happen to travel in close proximity. That makes us the more efficient empire. /sarc

Posted by: cynthia | Nov 6 2013 17:48 utc | 4

"Since the second world war the United States did not win one of the many wars it waged"

It's pretty questionable whether the US really won the Second World War
Western propaganda aside.

"How much is such outrageous behavior against the locals, which also happened in the Korean and Vietnam war, responsible for that?"

Outrageous behaviour against the locals is par for the course
It is terrorism. The targeting of civilians. Not much new under the sun, really?!

Posted by: Penny | Nov 6 2013 18:02 utc | 5

" It's pretty questionable whether the US really won the Second World War Western propaganda aside."

How do you mean? I'm quite curious. Except for the "loss" of China the US seemed secure every advantage war can produce for a country.

Unless you mean the idea that the US were the reason the allies won - in which case i agree entirely. They were not.

Posted by: guest77 | Nov 6 2013 19:56 utc | 6

"...Except for the "loss" of China the US seemed secure every advantage war can produce for a country...."

And would have done so even if it had not entered the war.

The crucial role that the US played in both World wars, was economic. It's enormous production capacity was put to the work of fulfilling orders from the one power which could, just, place them. That was the UK and its imperial subjects.
I would not go so far as to say that, without US production, Britain would have lost the war-Canada's economy was capable of producing food and industrial goods for Britain to survive, though it was far less well placed to expand production rapidly than the US in 1940. But US industry and co-operation in the Battle of the Atlantic certainly made the odds much better.
As did the rarely considered but obvious enough decision by the US to throw its support to Britain rather than the Axis powers. It had much in common with them, most obviously the anti-Communism which led to its natural alliance with European fascists after the war.

But the short answer is that the Soviet Union "won" the war, firstly by smashing the Wehrmacht and secondly by giving the Japanese government notice that it would attack unless Japan surrendered. That clinched it, the Red Army would have occupied Manchuoko very rapidly. The Japanese preferred to take their chances with the US than to see their empire gone for ever. They were very shrewd: within months their allies in Korea and Vietnam were back in the saddle. By 1955 Japanese capitalism was bigger than ever.

THE US "won" the war because it emerged with its economy firing/roaring on all cylinders, all potential rivals either exhausted or devastated, and in the USSR's case both, and with Britain not only ready to cede the US the Empire but to pay interest on Lend Lease and the enormous loans that it had incurred in the war.
The price paid was, on the one hand the ruling class in Britain took jobs as auxiliaries of the newly relocated Imperial system while the working people shouldered the debt.
The seeds of 2013's harvest of despair, unemployment and fratricidal strife were sown in 1945's failure to repudiate the debt, dismantle capitalism and prove that Socialism can be Built in One Country.
Instead, under the amused and contemptuous gaze of the US ruling class, Mr Attlee and his colleagues went through the motions of attempting something that RH Tawney, who was born in Bengal, knew could not be done, namely to "tame a tiger (the same one Blake had identified) claw by claw."

The point is Guest 77, old friend, that the US also won World War One and it barely made it to the battlefield that time.

Posted by: bevin | Nov 6 2013 20:39 utc | 7

The US economy is hopelessly addicted to war, making it a Permanent War Economy. Its Global Empire will never voluntarily give up its bases and strategy of pressuring Russia, China, North Korea, Cuba, Iran, and much of Africa.

Afghanistan is a pivotal cog in this perverted, brutal strategy of world hegemony. Only a total replacement of the American Ruling Class and its deeply corrupt economic/political system will end this sociopathic strategy. And what are the odds of that happening?

Posted by: Cynthia | Nov 6 2013 21:09 utc | 8

Obama: A Drone Terrorist?

he latest killing of the Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud by a U.S. drone showed again the sovereign contempt displayed by President Obama toward Pakistan’s sovereignty. Five or six people, who joined Mehsud at a mosque, were also killed. The killing came at a time when the negotiations between the Taliban and the Pakistani government were scheduled to start about a peace settlement of this ongoing internal conflict. Pakistan’s interior minister Chaudhry Nisar called the drone attack a “murder of peace”. The Taliban replaced Mehsud with Khan Said and vowed revenge.

How politically sensitive this issue represents, is shown by the visit of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to the White House just days before the killing of Mehsud. Sharif is fighting an uphill battle because the Pakistani public is highly critical of the drone strikes, whereas the different Pakistani governments are believed to have secretly approved them. Critics have pointed out that some elements of the state apparatus may be helping the U. S. in carrying out these attacks.

The targeted killings by U. S. drones have been under fierce criticism by human rights organizations and experts in international law. Besides of violating the territorial integrity of Pakistan, the attacks constitute outright murder under customary international law, or – using a technical term – extra-judicial executions. It is legally incorrect to differentiate between the targeted “terrorist” and the surrounding civilians, deemed “collateral” victims. All those killed are deemed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law. They all are protected by international human rights law and international humanitarian law, unless killed in self-defense.

According to Amnesty International, the killing program of the U.S. Empire appears also to be supported by the German government. According to Amnesty, the federal government of Germany has supplied the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) with mobile phone numbers of people who were later executed by weaponized drones. The Federal Intelligence Service (BND) did not comment on the accusations.

The USA is the point of the Western neoliberal war on 'the South'. Who will take the point position after the collapse of the USA ?

Posted by: john francis lee | Nov 6 2013 22:21 utc | 9

re 7, I thought Attlee et al. did pretty well in creating the social state in Britain, that the Tories spend all their time today in attempting to destroy.

The NHS, retirement pensions, all go back to the post-2WW creation by the Labour Government.

Posted by: alexno | Nov 6 2013 22:39 utc | 10

john francis lee @ 9 "Besides of violating the territorial integrity of Pakistan, the attacks constitute outright murder under customary international law,"
Customary International Law is only as good as the institutions in place to prosecute it, in this case a complaint to the UNSC would be vetoed by the US, a complaint to the International Court of Justice [The World Court] might be accepted, but as in the case of the decision in Nicaragua v USA when Nicaragua won, the US simply ignored the decision, the US is a rogue state, which ignores International law, why? Because it can. It is possible the Pakistan Government acquiesce in all these strikes, but complain publicly for domestic consumption, otherwise they could just shoot them down.

Posted by: harrylaw | Nov 6 2013 23:11 utc | 11

American troops have a poor reputation in close combat. Their advantage is in bombardment. After the Normandy landings, where they suffered, every victory was won by bombardment.

I should think that Americans, not being personally concerned in the war in question, because of their geographical distance, don't particularly want to die for issues that don't concern them directly.

The use of drones is an extension of that. They kill from afar. Bombardment is done without American intervention, and without thought as to whether the killing is useful. Such is the case of Mehsud.

On a personal level, killing really means nothing for an American. He is protected from prosecution. That's why the idea of a SOFA where an American soldier would be exposed to Afghan justice is not going to work. The US would prefer to withdraw entirely, and that is what they will do, even if they want to remain in place.

We are not in the 19th century, where extra-territorial rights for westerners were the norm.

Posted by: alexno | Nov 6 2013 23:25 utc | 12

In all fairness to the US military-industrial syndicate, we should recognize that the US has won two of its post 1945 wars. The first was Reagan's attack/war on Grenada, which featured an exciting and photogenic "wet" landing by a Client Eastwood look-alike and a bunch of good ol' 'Merican' boys. And of course, the US saved the medical students from the corrupting influence of the Socialistic Cuban soldiery.

The second was the first George H. Bush's war against Panama. As you may recall, this war was launched in order to serve an arrest warrant on M. Noriega, the Panama head of government who was a former colleague of Bush. This war featured the use of "smart bombs", which turned out to be dumb as shit and extremely deadly to the Socialistic Poor People residing in a shanty town somewhere within bombing distance of Noriega. It may also be the first war in history in which the leader of the opposing, godless, Socialistic forces surrendered after being put to siege by loudspeakers playing really bad rock 'n roll.

Posted by: george | Nov 6 2013 23:59 utc | 13

The US army entered the imperial stage in 1898 with our war against Spain. That part of the war was a joke. But after driving Spain out of the Philippines we had a problem with the local independence forces that began fighting against Spain. The US assumed that we would now be the colonial ruler. The locals disagreed. The bottom line is that we sent in our army ** and killed about 10% of the native population before the survivors realized they could not win. That precedent has driven US imperial policy ever since. Kill enough natives and they will capitulate.

It worked for awhile. However, the Vietnamese suffered about 2.5 million deaths in their war against America (that comes to about 4% of their population). The US knows how to kill big time. Unfortunately for the US the Vietnamese managed to kill over 50,000 US troops and that was a price we were unwilling to continue. So we lost that war.

In any case widespread killing of natives is in America's DNA, as it were, to support our imperial ambitions. It is the US military that is tasked with that job. In any case, this post by b. is not really news but just more evidence of the role the US army plays in US imperial ambitions.

** The officers of those troops that suppressed the Philipines were trained in wars against the native Americans in the west -- some had previous "combat" experience at Wounded Knee.

Posted by: ToivoS | Nov 7 2013 0:12 utc | 14

re @10 alexno.
You are right about the NHS which is now suffering the fate that Blair and New Labour set it up for.
And it is true that the 1945 Labour Government did many good things, though many of them were initiated by the Coalition, to whom Beveridge reported in 1943. Public opinion was running very strongly in favour of establishing the welfare state, which for years was maintained by the Tories.

As to retirement pensions they go back to the 1909 Liberal Budget and were Lloyd George's long overdue attempt to follow Bismark's lead in Germany.

The problem with the 1945 government was that, having committed itself to maintaining its dependency on the US it had no choice but to follow US orders. This included maintaining an enormous military establishment which cost a big slice of the National Income and holding on to as much of the Empire as it could. This corrupted the country, did enormous harm to Malaya, Kenya, Guyana and other places where dollars were squeezed out of the economies and, as I hinted, set the UK on course to its present fate.
Britain had a choice but it stuck with Churchill's surrender to the United States which, to do him credit, was preferable to the surrender that most of his ruling class colleagues were ready for in May 1940.

Posted by: bevin | Nov 7 2013 1:41 utc | 15

@11 "Customary International Law is only as good as the institutions in place to prosecute it"

Unless, of course, you start a war and lose it. In which case you don't need "institutions in place" because you can always create ad-hoc tribunals.

"the US is a rogue state, which ignores International law, why? Because it can"

Oh, sure. But it's like the Rodney King trial: the perpetrators of that crime were acquitted, but nobody was in any doubt about what they were seeing in those videos i.e. they were witnessing a crime.

Similarly, nobody is going to attempt to prosecute American officials for war crimes. But the damage to the USA occurs in other, much more subtle, ways.

In a word: blowback.

Posted by: Johnboy | Nov 7 2013 1:52 utc | 16

Excuse this OT: Forensics team in France confirms Yasser Arafat was murdered with radioactive polonium. Gee I wonder who had motive, opportunity and has all kinds of radioactive material hanging around waiting to be used? Probably the same goons who were spreading the lie that he died from HIV.

Posted by: kalithea | Nov 7 2013 4:43 utc | 17

Let's talk about a much bigger circle of Death than OEF-A's twoseys and threeseys.

The UN Biofuels Initiative was adopted by the Obama administration as the US Biofuels Initiative MANDATE. Americans are being forced to burn six BILLION bushels of human food grains at the Altar of AGW Biofuels Billionaires. The MANDATE is scheduled to DOUBLE by 2018 to TWELVE billion bushels, more than HALF OF AMERICA'S GRAIN PRODUCTION, UP IN SMOKE.

The availability of LIMITLESS US taxpayer funded 'carbon credits' is driving global deforestation by the Biofuels Billionaires in Sumatra, the Amazon, the Congo, 100,000s of square MILES of pristine tropical rainforest is being slash-and-burned each year for more Globalist GMO biofuels plantations, as the poor aboriginals, artisanals and campesanos who first cleared and settled those forests are driven into jobless urban gulags to starve.

This 'AGW' Biofuels Initiative MANDATE has doubled and will soon TRIPLE the global price of human food grains and oils seeds, and yet, ironically, the UN is begging for more food aid from the US, because 100 million 3W children are now at risk of famine, and the world only has 17 days of grain reserves, as even the central governments are selling off their grain stores to pay back IMF-WB development loans, the same UN-IPCC-IMF-WB that runs the ICE energy commodities futures speculation bourse in Belgium.

The last time hot money and zero interest credit hit the world commodities exchanges in the runup to our 2008 credit collapse, grain prices rose in some cases to EIGHT TIMES the normal levels, but famine was prevented because of adequate food stores and good harvest. With this pernicious evil of Warmist-Globalist propaganda, and a US Biofuels SCHEDULED RACHET-UP WITH NO SUNSET CLAUSE, liquidation of 100s of millions of humans is assured, and all in an 'orderly fashion', and in such a way as to generate 'good portfolio profits'.

Hey, don't forget to pay your 2014 Climate Tithe to support Obama's Climate Task Force!

Posted by: PeeDee | Nov 7 2013 9:09 utc | 18

the rule of engagement...

Posted by: denk | Nov 7 2013 11:40 utc | 19


Thanks to our politicians, both Democrats and Republicans alike, for sticking to the task of turning Corporate America into a one-stop shopping kleptocracy, health-care reform has been tailored to do hardly anything to either reduce cost or improve access. It’s been tailored to be just a pork-fest for Wall Street and higher-ups employed in the medical-industrial complex. Something similar can be said about cap and trade legislation, which is Washington’s solution to put the brakes on global warming. Laurie Williams and Allen Zabel, two no-nonsense attorneys working for the EPA, make a compelling case that cap and trade will not only do little to reduce greenhouse gases, but it’ll also be nothing more than a souped-up gravy train for speculators in the commodities market and for higher-ups employed in the fossil fuel and forest industries.

Posted by: Cynthia | Nov 7 2013 13:18 utc | 20


No kidding. So, open you eyes?

Posted by: neretva'43 | Nov 7 2013 15:06 utc | 21

"Laurie Williams and Allen Zabel, two no-nonsense attorneys working for the EPA..."

Hilarious. You have degree (this doesn't mean that you an education) from some of (or non) prestigious a regime sponsored university?

Posted by: neretva'43 | Nov 7 2013 15:18 utc | 22 or Gatekeepersnow is worse than the CNBC channel and Maria Bartiromo. Representative sample of their work is shown in the link above.

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

Upton Sinclair

Posted by: neretva'43 | Nov 7 2013 15:43 utc | 23

field manual for artillery crews in nam...
*follow the cry of babies, u cant miss*

Posted by: denk | Nov 7 2013 16:28 utc | 25

It is as though we have a death wish as a species. Pacific salmon swimming up stream, spawn and then die, while the spawn perish in the toxic waters flowing from the tailings of the mines that produced our economy. Ironic...literally since acids that kill the fish come from the oxidation of the mined iron.

Posted by: Curtis | Nov 7 2013 18:14 utc | 26


Regarding your comment #15, I wanted to say a few things. In that comment you talk about some good things which were done by the Labour government post-WWII. In general, when many people on the left talk about the "welfare state", they do so with an air of nostalgia and emphasizing (IMO over-emphasizing) the class struggle and the strength of the labour organizations, in a way that it leaves an impression in the readers' mind that as if the idea of a "welfare state" and Keynesian policies were possible today only if we had a labour movement as strong and as well organized as that of the olden days and if only we had wiser and more "decent" leaders in the center left. I say "over-emphasizing" because I do believe that strong labour movements played a crucial role, but that it was only half of what was needed for the creation of "welfare state". In over-emphasizing this half, the other crucial half which was as important (if not more) is under-emphasized and perhaps even neglected. The under-emphasized half that I am talking about is the profitability of the industrial capital. At the end of WWII, industrial capital was in a state to make it possible for the capitalist class to make concessions to the labour movements in the center(1) and still be very profitable. Starting from the late 60's the profitability of the industrial capital had deteriorated to a level which by the 70's the idea of the "welfare state" was no longer sustainable and hence the era of neo-liberalism.
"Blair" and "New Labour" are not (IMO) the result of a general "corruption" of the center left, but the result of a deteriorating profitability for the industrial capital which made the idea of having a "welfare state" an impossibility within a system based on the rate of profit and the accumulation of capital. If there was a main problem with the center left, it was not its maintaining the dependency on the US(2), but rather that problem was the fact that the "left" took a path of fighting for a change in the "distribution pattern" of the products rather than fighting for a change in the very mode of production from one based on "profitability" to one based on social needs.


1) It must be mentioned by the way that it is often neglected that the glorious "welfare state" came at the cost of brutal suppression of the people in the periphery, a suppression which crucially needed "an enormous military establishment".

2) US itself at the time had a strong tendency for the "welfare state", and within the parameters of "accumulation of capital" and "profitability" it was impossible not to depend on US anyway.

Posted by: Pirouz_2 | Nov 7 2013 19:54 utc | 27

Firstly, sorry about posting the Rolling Stone link, that was a mistake...

Pirouz-2. The point you make about the brutal exploitation is one I have made, not very clearly evidently, in my references to the military budget and the exploitation of colonies.
I would add that, historically, the costs to the workers in the metropolis of maintaining imperialism exceed the benefits which trickle down from the exploiters. Often the last to realise this are the workers who buy the line that they share in the benefits of Empire. They rarely did but invariably they paid for it. Not least in ye shouldering of the costs of wars waged to expand and defend imperial holdings.
My own view as to the origins of the "welfare state" are that it was inevitable, an overdue reparation for the 1834 Poor Law as luch as anything and a recognition of the fact that the vast army in 1945 had to be persuaded to hand back its guns and demobilise to something better than the conditions of wartime and pre war Britain.
It was a question of the ruling class saying "You give us your gun back and go home quietly. And we will guarantee full employment, decent wages, housing, healthcare and educational opportunities for all."

Leadership on the left played a very small part in it. Blair etc are not traitors to the working class, which they never pretend to serve, but to the imaginary community of the nation which they constantly invoke to obscure the reality of class struggle. In 1945 that "nation" idea had great emotional and political power and the ruling class, on the brink of extinction, snivelled a great deal about its patriotism and how "we are all British." It made no effort to prevent Labour from introducing its programme, it trusted that as time passed its power would return with its wealth and it looked to the US to ensure that it would.
As to the relative position of British capital, in 1945, it was not good. The country was a mess, its obligations were immense, its debt out of control, its factories obsolescent and its markets evaporating. Taxes on income were very high, exchange controls were extremely tight (it was difficult, legally, to take more than ten pounds sterling out of the country) and food, fuel and clothing were all tightly rationed: the priority was to export to earn dollars to pay for vital food imports.
The same imports which constituted the basis of the imperial exchange whereby Britain gave up its agriculture so that those buying its industrial goods could sell their raw materials.
The alternative course in 1945, which Britain rejected without real consideration, would have involved dropping the empire immediately, repudiating the National Debt and marrying British resources of capital and technology with those of the Continent, including the Soviet Union.
One thing I should have mentioned (in 15) was the enormous weight, which grew at the war's end of the liberation movements all over Europe, they constituted, across the continent the real force for democracy and anti-imperialism. It was the first task of the ruling classes to disarm and demobilise them all before they joined hands and made the world a place fit for people to live in.

Posted by: bevin | Nov 7 2013 21:34 utc | 28

Here's a bit of trivia that may (or may not) be of interest.

The Australian contingent in Afghanistan used to hate taking prisoners, precisely for the reason you give I.e. they weren't a big enough force to justify their own detention facilities, so they were instructed to hand over prisoners to the US Army.

But under int'l law the Aussies were still responsible for their well-being, yet the Aussies knew full well that the Americans can - and often did - hand those prisoners on for a swift BANG!!!

It was quite an issue behind the closed-doors of the ADF, though I don't know the result.

Probably a combination of when-in-doubt then let-them-walk plus if-you-must then demand-a-written-receipt.

The Aussie diggers are no angels, but on this issue even they were very troubled by the USA's antics.

Posted by: Johnboy | Nov 8 2013 2:25 utc | 29

@Cynthia (20)

Thanks for the link. Very interesting.

Posted by: guest77 | Nov 8 2013 2:51 utc | 30

Well, while the ADF's conscience isn't completely clear, it hasn't totally lost the plot.
Last week they persuaded the relatives of Oz soldiers whose lives had been thrown away chasing USraeli lies, delusions and daydreams (ie less than nothing) in Afghanistan, that a local memorial to Ozzie "heroes" should be relocated to a less hostile environment - in Oz.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Nov 8 2013 3:07 utc | 31

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