Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
November 29, 2014

Obama Falsely Claims Human Rights Law Does Not Apply To Syrian Mercenary Training

Buried down in a report about Pentagon plans to train more mercenaries to fight against Syria we find this declaration of intend by the Obama administration to (again) break the law:

The military screening plan came together after the Obama administration determined that the training program for the Syrians would not be subject to what are known as the Leahy laws, which typically govern U.S. security assistance to foreign forces.

Under those laws, a small office at the State Department works with U.S. embassies overseas to ensure that recipients of State or Defense Department security assistance aren’t linked to major human rights abuses.
Because the Syrian rebels will not be part of a state-sponsored force, the laws will not apply, U.S. officials said.

Wait a second. The U.S. congress has set aside $500 million to train, equip and pay these fighters. The U.S. military will do the training. And the Obama administration claims that these are not "state-sponsored forces"? Is the U.S. no longer a nation state?

Besides that the Leahy law as codified for the Pentagon in Section 8057 of the 2014 Omnibus bill does not say anything about "state-sponsored forces":

(1) None of the funds made available by this Act may be used for any training, equipment, or other assistance for the members of a unit of a foreign security force if the Secretary of Defense has credible information that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.

(2) The Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall ensure that prior to a decision to provide any training, equipment, or other assistance to a unit of a foreign security force full consideration is given to any credible information available to the Department of State relating to human rights violations by such unit.

There is nothing about "state-sponsored" in the Pentagon relevant portion of the Leahy law. Will these trained be "foreign"? Yes. Will they be "security forces"? Arguably because they will likely bring more insecurity to Syria than security. But they will have weapons, will be organized in units and will fight. That seems to fit the expression "foreign security force".

Additionally the Pentagon Leahy law parts differ from the parts (Section 620M of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (as amended most recently in January 2014)) relevant to State Department sponsored training which explicitly refers to a "unit of the security forces of a foreign country".

When Congress codified the law it decided to limit the State Department version to "security forces of a foreign country". The Pentagon version was limited to "a foreign security force" which is a wider frame and does not necessitate those forces to be related to a foreign country.

The Obama administration obfuscation of Leahy relevance is faulty on two counts. If the Leahy restrictions were really to "state-sponsored forces" than the state sponsoring by the United States should count too. But the Leahy law as relevant is not restricted to "state-sponsored forces". It applies to "a foreign security force" which any Syrian group trained by the Pentagon will actually be. (Though again one might argue correctly that these forces will bring more insecurity to Syria and thereby are no "security forces" but the Obama administration does not make that claim.)

All the groups the CIA has trained and equipped to fight against Syria have committed major human rights violations. But the Leahy law does not apply to the CIA. Now as the Pentagon takes over the training of such groups the Leahy law becomes relevant. I dare anyone to find a group of Syrian insurgents fighting against the Syrian government that has not indiscriminately shelled civilians and not committed other major human rights abuses. There is none.

The Obama administration wants to avoid the applicability of the Leahy law because applying it would leave the Pentagon without any potential recruits to train as mercenaries against the Syrian government. It decided to break the law by using an interpretation that actually not covered by the laws wording. It has thus decided to break the law.

Posted by b on November 29, 2014 at 17:32 UTC | Permalink


I pray that there is a God and that those who have aided in the killing of innocents will have to answer for their indiscretions.

Posted by: Lanny V Stricherz | Nov 29 2014 18:13 utc | 1

"...The U.S. government (via the State Department) implements the law through[ 10] a process known as “Leahy vetting.”[ 10] A prospective aid recipient's unit is a process known as “Leahy vetting.” A prospective aid recipient's unit is searched for evidence of past commission of gross human rights violations The State Department has interpreted “gross human rights violations” to mean a small number of the most heinous acts: murder of non-combatants torture, “disappearing” people, and rape as a tactic..."

So I wonder how that vetting process went. Syria is an active combat zone and more than likely there has been human rights violations committed by those mercenary groups. I wonder who was on the ground for the state dept. vetting those rebel groups and interviewing civilians.

Posted by: really | Nov 29 2014 19:41 utc | 2

USNATO: Regime Changes 'R' Us...

Islamic State (Isis) has launched an attack on the Syrian border town of Kobani from Turkey for the first time, a Kurdish official and activists said.

The assault began with a suicide attack by a bomber in an armoured vehicle on the border crossing between Kobani and Turkey, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based opposition group, said.

Nawaf Khalil, a spokesman for Syria’s Kurdish Democratic Union party, said that Isis “used to attack the town from three sides” but “today, they are attacking from four sides”.

USNATO, I'm sure, is shocked, shocked...

Posted by: chuckvw | Nov 29 2014 19:43 utc | 3

not to worry. all these international groups - human rights watch, osce, amnesty international and etc. are beholden to the usa and are only focused on laws being broken when someone other then the usa is breaking them..

Posted by: james | Nov 29 2014 20:07 utc | 4

Although late in coming, the Leahy vetting law was a response to the Latin American death squad activity from the Reagan era. It took until the late 1990s before the full extent of official involvement in these notorious murder programs could be acknowledged. During the 1980s, the Reagan administration vehemently denied any involvement whatsoever, knowing there would be a severe political backlash from appalled American voters. Times have obviously changed. The Leahy law is now considered an anachronistic annoyance. The Pentagon in Iraq boasted of instituting a "Salvador Option" to promote sectarian strife. The American people have been so numbed by the 9-11 psy-op that they seemingly have lost the capacity to care.

Andre Vltchek's latest piece - a ground level view of events from the edge of Iraqi Kurdistan - is up at CounterPunch and other venues and is a real eye-opener.

Posted by: jayc | Nov 29 2014 20:41 utc | 5

The US arms terrorists to bring down a legitimate member of the United Nations, in breach of the UN charter. Very well, Syria and Iran should arm those groups the US regard as terrorists Hezbollah and Hamas. I mean real arms, Shoulder fired anti aircraft missiles, in fact the best weapons they have and in massive quantities. The US/Israel are rogue states who only understand the use of force, very well give them both barrels.

Posted by: harry law | Nov 29 2014 21:08 utc | 6

cia vetting questionnaire

1. do you want to kill? Yes
2. will you kill who we tell you to? Yes
3. which rifle do you want? The shiny one
4. here your bullets and some freshly printed $100s now get in that truck.

cia training 101

Posted by: jo6pac | Nov 29 2014 21:38 utc | 7

You know, I am surprised that IS hasn't cut a deal with SA, Turkey, Israel and the US yet.

Something along the lines of:
IS leaves Kurds alone (SA and Turkey not happy about that though, but they could live with it).
IS is allowed to keep all the territory it has captured (and maybe a bit more), counter attacks from the Iraqi Govt would be stopped.
IS is then free to concentrate on Syria, with total support from US (etc) far more arms and money and all the rest ('back on track').
Israel clears the southern Syrian areas to let IS through to attack Damascus, with air and artillery support, thus enabling a 2 pronged attack.
Turkey (and covertly the US) lets rip its airforce, artillery, etc in the northern areas to benefit IS.

So I am a bit surprised that something like this hasn't happened yet. IS must know that the US (etc) would be quite happy for them to have all the Sunni areas in Iraq and could be persuaded to leave them alone there in return for taking out Syria.

Or does IS suspect (probably correctly) that after they take out Syria (and commit mass genocide), that they will be expected to meekly hand it over to Turkey afterwards? But even if that were true, IS would still be the beneficiary and could easily become strong enough to block Turkey, or even cut another deal with them to (say) exterminate the Kurds in return for keeping Syria.

Or is this just an issue where negotiations along these lines are currently taking place and they haven't finished yet? Because this seems the only logical strategy for US/Turkey/SA/Israel/IS to follow given all their disparate desires.

Or are there different undercurrents happening? One (low probability) suspicion I have is that the US military’s rush to get involved in Iraq again is a double play, to snooker the US politicians who want a military showdown with Russia. By getting greatly involved in Iraq they head that possibility off.

Because what seems to happening there is right out of the Twilight Zone at the moment. Even allowing for the normal 'ga-ga' land thinking and the usual insane incompetence, this is a CF of monumental proportions.

Posted by: Lisa FOS | Nov 29 2014 22:58 utc | 8


The US has been aiding and abetting "murder of non-combatants torture, “disappearing” people, and rape as a tactic" since Reagan, no, actually, since Zbigniew Brzezinski whispered the first Deep Government Jihad into Carter's ear: "Overthrow the Afghanistan President!", no wait, actually, since Richard Helmes whispered into Johnson's ear: "Assassinate Ngo Dinh Diem", no wait, since Kermit Roosevelt whispered into Eisenhower's ear: "Assassinate President Mohammad Mosaddegh!", no wait, since John Foster Dulles whispered into Eisenhower's ear: "Assassinate President Jacobo Árbenz" ... I get so confused...

Why does MoA get upset over such trivia as John McCain arming and funding Al Nusra and I$I$?
The CIA is a Criminal International Army, and has been for its entire existence. Wake TF up.

Posted by: ChipNikh | Nov 29 2014 23:14 utc | 9

Thanks for reading the CIA/Amazon Post for us, b. Your work ought to point up the absolute uselessness of Jeff Bezos' CIA/Amazon Disinformation and Fish Wrap Dispenser.

The USA is officially 'above the law'. It is the 'indispensable' nation and does what 'must be done'.

Laws are for little people.


So that headline should read NATO suicide bomber attacks Kobane

Posted by: john francis lee | Nov 29 2014 23:29 utc | 10

b.(related to jayc's point at #5):

The Leahy Law is related to aid given to a State (like Israel or El Salvador) which has/had military forces guilty of war crimes (and aid to Israel continues to violate the Leahy Law). The applicable case is the US funding of insurgency groups which are seeking to overthrow a government. The Boland Amendment specifically forbade the funding of the Nicaraguan contras which were seeking the overthrow of the Sandinista government. The US should not be supporting insurgencies to overthrow other governments -- I'm not sure which American or international law this violates, but that would be the relevant comparison.

Posted by: Rusty Pipes | Nov 30 2014 0:03 utc | 11

I dare anyone to find a group of Syrian insurgents fighting against the Syrian government that has not indiscriminately shelled civilians and not committed other major human rights abuses. There is none.


Khorasan Group


too easy.

Next! . . .

Posted by: Khorasan Group | Nov 30 2014 0:23 utc | 12

@12 - it is like if amazon or some corporation opened up a bunch of different outlets and called them, abebooks, the book depository and etc etc - all owned and controlled by amazon... in your example - khorasan group - is another funded mercenary group with the usual financial sponsors who think they are above international law.. that would definitely include the 'exceptional nation'..

Posted by: james | Nov 30 2014 2:01 utc | 13

Posted by: Lisa FOS | Nov 29, 2014 5:58:18 PM | 8

Turkey is in big trouble, imo. It defies reason and explanation that a once secular, notionally Muslim country would join NATO, a half-baked military alliance of Christian, supremacist plunderers with a colonial mindset.

A few years ago, Turkey and Brazil tried to defuse the "Israel"-inspired Iran Nuclear "crisis" by offering to act as a traceable source of fuel for Iran's civilian reactors. Then came the abortive Malaysia/Turkey sponsored Mavi Maramara attempt to break the siege of Gaza.

After a token display of outrage, Erdogan quickly swallowed Turkey's pride and got with the NATO program - including sweeping Turkey's secular history under the rug. Or a magic carpet?

Erdogan owes the world, and Turks, an explanation.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Nov 30 2014 2:10 utc | 14

No james

Its like this -Khorasan isnt even "a group of Syrian insurgents" since it doesnt even exist in flimsy sense somthing like al Nusra exists (a nonstop evermutating rebrand)

Obviously the US just completely invented it, from thin air, a month back, so it certainly has not been "fighting against the Syrian government" (since it doesnt exist, remember?) nor "indiscriminately shelled civilians" nor "committed other major human rights abuses", since it doesnt exist except in US press releases

But since it does exist in Press releases it therefore now does indeed "exist"

Posted by: KG | Nov 30 2014 4:13 utc | 15

If the Pentagon is training these forces, that's how they by-pass laws against such? Perhaps that's one of the reasons Hagel was dumped. Remind me again which wars the Pentagon has won since 9-11. And the State Department is vetting the mercenaries, like in the Ukraine. Is anyone running the show in Washington, or is it my imagination that it's a free for all from the top down.

Posted by: Norman | Nov 30 2014 7:56 utc | 16

If the forces being trained in combat aren't State forces, then they are de facto terrorists, yes?

Posted by: Gareth | Nov 30 2014 15:32 utc | 17


Terrorist is a convinent name to call anyone we dislike or who threatens our interests. Does joining a group of fighters to overthrow a dictator make you a terrorist? Many countries use terrorism to further their goals, it is a tool not an ideology although some groups have no other means of exerting influence.

I don't think this new 'Moderate' force will become a reality in time to change the outcome if it ever even gets created.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Nov 30 2014 16:53 utc | 18

was blackwater viewed as anything then a group of terrorists to the iraqi people? com'n with the bs about what is or isn't a terrorist as opposed to a moderate.. they are all terrorists to the people who are being murdered by them, even if it is state sponsored terrorism which the usa does on a regular basis.. the cia is a terrorist organization.. if they want to label some group as 'moderates' - they can go ahead, but only a complete sucker would believe that bs.

Posted by: james | Nov 30 2014 19:21 utc | 19

The new US effort in Syria will be administered by Major General Nagata, a principal experienced Army "Special Operations" (i.e. assassinations) operative, so of course there can be no consideration of human rights in this re-orientation of US strategy toward night raids and arbitrary killing of civilians.

Posted by: MrAmerican Pie (DB) | Nov 30 2014 23:03 utc | 20

How could they ever justify this?

Is their own internal logic something like "Those hearts were eaten by the Tawhid Battalion. This is the Tawhid Brigade. They're good. Give them the missiles."

Posted by: Crest | Dec 1 2014 4:38 utc | 21

While I appreciate your efforts in doing so b, and think state illegality should always be named and called out if for no other reason than history might then understand that not everyone in these times was blind, at some point it becomes akin to counting angels on the head of a pin.

Even if these actions of the US were legal under US or international law, it wouldn't in reality make them any more excusable, or rational, or humane.

The state breaks the law and then says it doesn't, what else is new?

Posted by: sleepy | Dec 1 2014 6:34 utc | 22

so what is jihad? the defenders of this word are legion on the is one defn just posted on Aljazeera english comment thread:
'Jihad is an Arabic word whichcomes from root Arabic word "Jahada"which means "to strive" or "to struggle"against evil and for justice'

that sums up what we are seeing....sunnis have been told by the authorities in media and politics and religion that president Assad is evil, and that Jihad against him is good, just and a duty.. This patter helps recruit young naive and otherwise clueless but devout sunnis to go off to wage war on syria, who ironically come to form the backbone of ISIS alnusra and other islamic terrorist groups.
This is what this guy is doing:
'"God asked to encourage the faithful to fight. So we are encouraging them, and we're letting them know that 'hijra' is compulsory for them, and that living in western countries is forbidden. The prophet is clear on that subject. A Muslim can't live among the infidels."'

given there is supposed to be no compulsion in islam this is ironic, but its also at the root of the crisis in syria

Posted by: brian | Dec 1 2014 8:21 utc | 23

@22 "sunnis have been told by the authorities in media and politics and religion that president Assad is evil, and that Jihad against him is good, just and a duty.. This patter helps recruit young naive and otherwise clueless but devout sunnis to go off to wage war"

What you've described sounds exactly what happens in the USA - we're told that a given leader is a bad guy and needs to be overthrown (regime changed) and we do it because we're the good guys and God tells us to do it (remember that Bush Jr. gave exactly that justification for invading Iraq). If we can't find work other than a McJob, and needed a little push to sign up, that's all it takes. We don't need to be killers in our hearts (though some serious FPS time probably helps). Then once we're out we can get a job on any urban police force and continue doing God's work.

Posted by: Snake Arbusto | Dec 1 2014 12:42 utc | 24

It is, of course, not only the USA that trains wahabist terrorists ...

Israeli">"">Israeli agents training MKO terrorists in Jordan

According to sources, who declined to be named, the MKO terrorists are undergoing training on how to conduct terrorist operations in Iran and Iraq and receiving technical as well as information technology (IT) training from Israeli agents.

I guess it's a division of labor ... the US trains the Syrian/Iraqi Saudi terrorists and Israel trains the Iranian Saudi terrorists.

Posted by: john francis lee | Dec 1 2014 12:49 utc | 25

Definitions of Terrorism in the U.S. Code

18 U.S.C. § 2331 defines "international terrorism" and "domestic terrorism" for purposes of Chapter 113B of the Code, entitled "Terrorism”:

"International terrorism" means activities with the following three characteristics:

Involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
Appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
Occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S., or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum.*

Posted by: Gareth | Dec 1 2014 15:21 utc | 26

The deeper question in my mind for any US citizen would be if the US government should ever (!) train forces that are substantially and intrinsically hostile to the US and its citizens and allies and "way of life" as a matter of course. As can be clearly seen with the Taliban this "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" stance has served the US not very well and in fact one might argue it has cost the US more in human lives and property than had it not "supported" and "trained" such principled foes ...

Posted by: Colm Barry | Dec 3 2014 9:48 utc | 27

Axis of Resistance leader calls for boots on the ground:

Asked whether coalition airstrikes are helping him, Assad said that the bombardments -- the Obama administration's preferred military tactic in the fight against the Islamic State -- aren't enough. "Troops on the ground that know the land and can react are essential," Assad told journalist Régis Le Sommier. "That is why there haven't been any tangible results in the two months of strikes led by the coalition. It isn't true that the strikes are helpful. They would of course have helped had they been serious and efficient."

Posted by: Louis Proyect | Dec 4 2014 9:19 utc | 28

"Why Assad refuses to step down" - What's Left, December 5, 2014.

Steve Gowans runs through ALL the direct reasons and peripheral factors, including a brief summary of each peripheral.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Dec 5 2014 3:34 utc | 29

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