Contents: The Sir! No Sir! blog is an information clearing house, drawing on a wide variety of sources, to track the unfolding history of the new GI Movement, and the wars that brought the movement to life.
Where applicable, parallels will be drawn between the new movement and the Vietnam era movement which was the focus of the film Sir! No Sir!
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This article, by Mike Corder, was posted to the Guffington Post, September 11, 2009
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The top commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan said Friday he sees no signs of a major al-Qaida presence in the country, but says the terror group still maintains close links to insurgents.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal spoke on the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States by al-Qaida that prompted the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.
The invasion quickly toppled the Taliban regime that had sheltered al-Qaida leaders who plotted the 9/11 attacks, but has since bogged down amid a deadly insurgency.
"I do not see indications of a large al-Qaida presence in Afghanistan now," McChrystal told reporters at the Dutch Defense Ministry, where he met military officials.
But he warned that Osama bin Laden's network still maintains contact with insurgents and seeks to use areas of Afghanistan they control as bases.
"I do believe that al-Qaida intends to retain those relationships because they believe it is symbiotic ... where the Taliban has success, that provides a sanctuary from which al-Qaida can operate transnationally," he added.
The specter of al-Qaida terrorists being harbored by insurgents in lawless areas of Afghanistan serves as a reminder to America and its allies of why the increasingly unpopular war started.
Last month, McChrystal sent a "strategic assessment" of the war to U.S. and NATO leaders. He has not revealed its contents publicly, but said at the time that success in Afghanistan "is achievable and demands a revised implementation strategy, commitment and resolve, and increased unity of effort."
Earlier this year, President Barack Obama ordered 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan, which will bring the total number of U.S. forces there to 68,000 by the end of the year.
McChrystal is expected to ask for more troops soon, but would not elaborate on numbers Friday.
"My position here is a little bit like a mechanic. We've got a situation with a vehicle and I've been asked to look at it and tell the owner what the situation is and what it will cost to make the vehicle run correctly and I will provide that," he said.
"Now I understand that the vehicle owner then has to make a decision on what the car is worth, how much longer he intends to drive it," he added. "Whether he wants it to look good or just run."
McChrystal can expect the U.S. Congress to take a long look at any cost estimate he sends them.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking Democrat in Congress, said this week she did not think "there's a great deal of support for sending more troops to Afghanistan in the country or in the Congress."
But while skepticism about the war in Afghanistan grows, McChrystal said allied troops there likely prevented other terror attacks since 9/11.
"We have not been struck again in the United States, and I think the strikes that would have hit across the world – not just in Europe or the United States but I think also in much of the Muslim world – I think have been prevented," he told The Associated Press. "I can't prove that because you can't prove a negative, but I certainly strongly believe that is the case."
This article, by Jason Leopold, was posted toTruthOut, July 18, 2009.
The House Intelligence Committee formally announced Friday that it will probe whether the CIA broke the law by failing to inform Congress about a top secret assassination program reportedly aimed at targeting leaders of al-Qaeda.
Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes said the probe would be part of a wide-ranging investigation about the way in which the CIA informs Congress about its covert activities and other matters.
Reyes, in announcing the wide-ranging probe Friday, said he had consulted with the panel’s ranking Republican minority leader, Rep. Pete Hoekstra, and other committee members and concluded that an investigation into "possible violations of federal law, including the National Security Act of 1947" were warranted. Under that law, the CIA must keep Congress "fully and currently informed" via classified briefings about its intelligence activities.
"This investigation will focus on the core issue of how the congressional intelligence committees and Congress are kept fully and currently informed," Reyes said. "To this end, the investigation will examine several issues, including the program discussed during Director Panetta's June 24 notification and whether there was any past decision or direction to withhold information from the committee."
Rep. Jan Schakowsky said Friday that her subcommittee would handle some part of the investigation into the CIA's assassination program.
"Why was there such a high-level determination to keep it secret? And how may it have changed over all these years? And why was it immediately ended as soon as the current CIA director learned of it?" she asked, describing the areas of focus for her subcommittee.
Reyes's aides said the investigation will also delve into the use of torture by CIA interrogators and contractors against alleged "high-level" detainees, the agency’s destruction of 92 interrogation videotapes - 12 of which depict acts of torture against two prisoners - and the Bush administration’s domestic surveillance program.
These aides added that the probe will also look into claims made by former CIA official Mary O. McCarthy, who accused senior agency officials of lying to members of Congress during an intelligence briefing in 2005 when they said the agency did not violate treaties that bar, cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of detainees during interrogations, according to a May 14, 2006, front-page story in The Washington Post.
"A CIA employee of two decades, McCarthy became convinced that 'CIA people had lied' in that briefing, as one of her friends said later, not only because the agency had conducted abusive interrogations but also because its policies authorized treatment that she considered cruel, inhumane or degrading," The Washington Post reported.
On the matter of domestic surveillance, Bob Graham, the committee’s former Democratic chairman, said in 2005 that Vice President Dick Cheney, CIA Director George Tenet and National Intelligence Director Michael Hayden (who later headed the CIA) lied to him about the extent of the Bush administration’s domestic surveillance and never provided him with a full and complete briefing.
In an interview with ABC's "Nightline" on December 15, 2005 – after The New York Times disclosed the existence of the warrantless wiretapping program – Graham said he attended meetings in Vice President Dick Cheney's office in 2001 and discussed surveillance activities. However, he said, neither Cheney nor then-National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden had spoken about a plan to spy on Americans. (CIA Director George Tenet also took part in the meeting.)
"The issue was whether we could intercept foreign communications when they transited through U.S. communication sites," Graham said. "The assumption was that if we did that, we would do it pursuant to the law, the law that regulates the surveillance of national security issues.
"There was no suggestion that we were going to begin eavesdropping on United States citizens without following the full law. There was no reference made to the fact that we were going to use that as the subterfuge to begin unwarranted, illegal — and, I think, unconstitutional — eavesdropping on American citizens."
Graham suggested that Cheney and the intelligence officials had lied to him and other members of congressional intelligence panels.
Cheney and other Bush administration officials, aided by Republican lawmakers, responded to Graham’s comments with a fierce counterattack. In another "Nightline" interview on December 18, 2005, Cheney said that Graham, as well as other members of Congress, knew that the administration intended to spy on the phone calls of some Americans.
"He knew," Cheney said. "I sat in my office with Gen. Hayden, who was then the head of NSA, who's now the deputy director of the National Intelligence Directorate, and he [Graham] was briefed as long as he was chairman of the committee, or ranking member of the committee."
Last week, an unclassified report prepared by inspectors general of five federal agencies said George W. Bush’s surveillance program was far more expansive than his administration had publicly revealed and that much of it was concealed from Congress.
The issue of the CIA’s use of torture and whether the agency fully informed top lawmakers on the Senate and House intelligence committees in 2002 and 2003 about techniques used against "high-level" detainees was called into question a few months back, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claimed she was never told that the CIA tortured prisoners at secret "black site" prisons using methods such as waterboarding.
But a CIA document turned over in May to Rep. Hoekstra, the House Intelligence Committee’s ranking minority member, contained the dates and a summary of the briefings given to a select group of congressional leaders, including Pelosi and Graham, about "enhanced interrogation techniques ... employed" against "high-value" detainees.
Republicans seized upon the document, claiming it proved that Democrats were complicit in the Bush administration’s torture program since they did not raise objections to the specific interrogation methods when briefed.
But the briefing document turned over to Hoekstra was rife with errors. Three of the four dates in which the CIA said it had briefed Graham do not match his records.
"When I asked the CIA when was I briefed, they gave me four dates, two in April and two in September of '02," Graham said. "On three of the four occasions, when I consulted my schedule and my notes, it was clear that no briefing had taken place, and the CIA eventually concurred in that. So their record-keeping is a little bit suspect."
One of the disputed dates for a briefing on interrogations – in April 2002 – fell in the same month as one of the supposed briefings on surveillance. In both cases, Graham said no briefings took place.
Moreover, Graham said he was not told about the CIA’s torture techniques, which the agency’s records claim were explained to Graham and Sen. Richard Shelby.
The CIA document also alleged that Pelosi was given a full accounting of the torture program, but Pelosi said in May that the CIA briefers obscured the fact that the agency already had begun subjecting prisoners to waterboarding and other torture techniques.
The CIA also erred in 2006 when a four-page memo from Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte was turned over to Congress. It contained the dates lawmakers were briefed about the surveillance program, beginning shortly after President George W. Bush signed a highly classified executive order that removed some legal restrictions against spying on US citizens.
The memo alleged that Graham – along with Pelosi, then ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, and their Republican counterparts, Rep. Porter Goss and Sen. Richard Shelby – were briefed on October 25, 2001, November 14, 2001, April 10, 2002 and July 8, 2002. A cover letter accompanying Negroponte’s letter said the briefings took place at the White House.
But Graham, who famously keeps a detailed journal of his daily schedule, said he checked those dates against his own records, which revealed no briefings on Oct. 25, 2001 or April 10, 2002. The memo had claimed Graham was the only lawmaker briefed on April 10, 2002. On July 8, 2002, the document said Graham and Shelby were briefed.
"When I got those dates, I went back to my notebooks and checked and found that on most of the dates there were no meetings held," Graham said in September 2007. "In fact, in several of them, I wasn’t in Washington when the meetings were supposed to have taken place. So I stand by what I said."
Graham said he did attend briefings on the two other dates but he told The Washington Post that "there was no discussion of anything [about spying on Americans' telephone calls] in the meeting with Cheney."
"I came out of the room with the full sense that we were dealing with a change in technology but not policy," Graham said.
Briefing lawmakers last month about a covert CIA assassination program that was recently shut down, CIA Director Panetta said it was Cheney who ordered the agency not to inform Congress about the covert activity for eight years, according to several lawmakers and numerous media reports.
Last week, after attempts to get Panetta to change a statement he made in May in which he said it was not the CIA’s "policy or practice to mislead Congress" failed, Reyes and other Democrats on the intelligence committee publicly released a letter they sent to the CIA director, characterizing his briefing to them.
That letter followed one sent by Reyes to Hoekstra and other top lawmakers on the intelligence panel, which stated that CIA officials "affirmatively lied" to the panel, presumably about the assassination program, and misinformed the committee about on numerous occasions about other intelligence matters.
Republicans, including Hoekstra, said Democrats were trying to cover for Pelosi’s accusations that the CIA lied to her. On Friday, Hoekstra said neither he nor his Republican colleagues would support an investigation into the CIA.
"At no time will the Republicans of this committee agree to or take part in congressional Democrats efforts to tear down the CIA to provide cover for Speaker Pelosi," Hoekstra said in a statement Friday.
However, the committee will also probe accusations, revealed in an agency watchdog report, that the CIA lied to Congress about the shooting down of an airplane over Peru in 2001 carrying American missionaries. Hoekstra was the lawmaker who accused the CIA of lying to Congress about the incident, though he has since distanced himself from the allegations.
This article, by Benjamin Morgan, was published by Agence France Presse, May 10, 2009
BAGHDAD (AFP) – Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki assured visiting US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday that his country's security will be unaffected by the planned American troop withdrawal from Iraqi cities.
"We don't need big numbers of (US) military forces inside the cities after we get control of them," Maliki said in a statement after talks with the top US lawmaker, who arrived in Baghdad on an unannounced visit.
"The responsible withdrawal (of US troops) will not affect the security situation," Maliki added.
A fierce critic of the 2003-US invasion ordered by former president George W. Bush, Pelosi's one-day visit came as US troops prepare to withdraw from Iraq's urban areas by the end of next month despite a spike in violence.
The withdrawal is a key part of a military accord signed by Baghdad and Washington last November that will also see US troops leave the country by the end of 2011.
Maliki said Iraq's military efforts were now concentrated on improving its intelligence services.
The US Congress, for its part, should try to develop bilateral relations focused on the scientific and economic agreements signed by the two countries, he said.
"Under stability, we are seeking to develop our economy, especially the oil industry, after multinationals have already come to work and invest in the sector," he said.
Pelosi said that Washington would stick to its part of the agreement on troop withdrawals.
"I can't speak to what the attitude is in Iraq, but what I do know that this is the plan that has been agreed upon, and we want to honour that," the California Democrat said after meeting parliament speaker Iyad al-Samarrai.
"Our agenda included talking about the strategic framework agreement and how it needs to be discussed and strengthened and enforced," Pelosi told a news conference after the meeting.
She said that Washington was withdrawing its troops in spite of the continued violence in Iraq.
Tackling the rampant corruption that international surveys routinely say makes Iraq one of the world's most corrupt countries was also crucial to its stability, as was improving US intelligence, she said.
"If we're going to have a diminished physical military presence, we have to have a strong intelligence presence," she said.
Pelosi, who previously visited Iraq in January 2007 and again in May of last year, also met with US officials and later left the country, a US embassy official said.
Her visit came as Iraq has been hit by a spate of deadly bombings which targeted crowded civilian areas, making April -- with 355 people killed -- the bloodiest month in the country since September.
Despite the violence, Iraq has insisted it will stick to the deadline for American troops to withdraw from cities by June 30, while Washington's top commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, has insisted the pullout is on track.
Pelosi has backed President Barack Obama's plan to end US combat operations in Iraq by August 2010, but has at the same time faulted his plans to leave behind a residual force of up to 50,000 soldiers.
"The remaining missions given to our remaining forces must be clearly defined and narrowly focused so that the number of troops needed to perform them is as small as possible," she said in February.
The US military currently has about 139,000 troops in Iraq.