Two raids were mounted by United States military forces over the weekend. One raid led to the rendition of a terror suspect from Libya to a naval vessel and the other raid was an operation in Somalia that failed.
Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary for President George W. Bush, who considers President Barack Obama a “hypocrite” for campaigning against Bush’s terrorism policies, reacted:
Fleischer was not only saying this to remind people that Obama was once opposed to these policies but to also openly celebrate the fact that Obama is employing them. Multiple times in June, as a CNN commentator, he referred to the second term of Obama’s presidency as “Bush’s fourth term” and lauded Obama for “aggressively fighting terror to keep us safe.” He highlighted how Guantanamo remained open and he had embraced drone strikes, military commissions and wiretaps.
Abu Anas al-Libi, according to a report by the Associated Press, was nabbed in a “swift Delta Force operation in the streets” of Tripoli. Al-Libi had parked his car outside of his home. Ten commandoes in vehicles surrounded him. His car window was smashed and his gun was seized. He was snatched and grabbed before forces fled the scene, taking him to what Pentagon spokesperson George Little described as a “secure location outside of Libya.” [Note: His son says Al-Libi did not have a weapon.]
The US government alleges Al-Libi, whose real name is Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, was involved in the 1998 “bombings of US Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, which killed more than 220 people.” Al-Libi has had a $5 million bounty on his head and been on the FBI’s most wanted terrorists list since the September 11th attacks.
A former close aide of Osama bin Laden, Jamal Ahmed al-Fadl, defected in the mid-1990s, according to the New York Times, and “became a cooperating witness for the American government.” He testified in 2001 that Libi is a “computer engineer who ran the group’s computers.”
Yet, as the AP acknowledged:
…[I]t was unclear whether the 49-year-old al-Libi had a major role in the terror organization — his alleged role in the 1998 attack was to scout one of the targeted embassies — and there was no immediate word that he had been involved in militant activities in Libya. His family and former associates denied he was ever a member of al-Qaida and said he had not been engaged in any activities since coming home in 2011…
Al-Libi, who was part of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group rebelling against Muammar Gadhafi’s regime, fled the country in the 1990s. He was time in Sudan for a period and then turned up in Britain. He was arrested in 1999 by Scotland Yard, but, because authorities lacked evidence, he was released and left Britain. He and his family went to Afghanistan but later fled for Iran, where he was detained and held for seven years. In August 2011, he returned to Libya as the country was in the midst of an intervention by NATO-backed forces.
The operation in Libya raises the question of why the Libyan government was not invited to cooperate. Similar to the raid against Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, it showed the US was not willing to trust the Libyan government or its security services. And the Libyan government condemned the “kidnapping” of one of its own citizens.
US officials claimed it was entirely lawful to carry out the operation against Al-Libi under war powers granted by Congress, but that seems highly debatable. Jeremy Bash, who served as chief of staff at the Pentagon and CIA under Obama, told the Times, “This appears to be the first unilateral operation under military authorities to capture someone outside of war zones or ungoverned places like Somalia.” Bash further suggested, “Our interests are not always aligned with theirs, and sometimes we have to act because they lack either the will or the capability, or both.”
But he was living out in the open and the Times further reported, “The plan to go after him was discussed repeatedly by officials known as the deputies committee, composed of No. 2 officials from across government, before it was refined and sent to cabinet secretaries for their recommendation and finally to Mr. Obama.” So, it seems odd to argue there was suddenly a window of opportunity that was going to close if a Delta Force team did not deploy and capture al-Libi.
Al-Libi has now been disappeared like terrorist suspects were when Bush was president. The Obama administration will not openly acknowledge where he is being held or when he might be arraigned in federal court on charges. He is presumed to be on a naval ship, like former Al Shabaab military commander Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, who was held for two months on a ship in 2011 and interrogated before being advised of his rights. Incidently, Warsame reportedly waived them. Law enforcement asked him questions for a week before he was sent to Manhattan to arraigned. He pled guilty and continues to provide intelligence to authorities that is being used to pursue “high-level international terrorist operatives.”
Warsame is a success story, however, did the military really have to hold him in detention for two months before he was read his rights and asked if he wanted a lawyer? Would he have refused to talk to law enforcement about what he knew if he had not initially been detained for what he probably thought could be an indefinite period?
Sending US forces into a country to capture a terrorist suspect is first and foremost a deliberate end run around any issues the US government may have had with having Al-Libi extradited. It undermines this international legal process by suggesting other countries can simply go into countries where there are people they want to capture and avoid the extradition process all because the US government believes Al-Libi possesses intelligence useful to the War on Terrorism.
In international law, it is primarily accepted that enforced disappearance is a “crime against humanity.” The US government has condemned other countries for enforced disappearances.
The detention of al-Libi is a further embrace of a principle promoted in a 2002 Office of Legal Counsel memo by John Yoo, an ardent supporter of the use of torture against detainees and . Yoo justified rendition by arguing, “[M]ilitary detention of enemy combatants serves a particular goal, one that is wholly distinct from that of detention of civilians for ordinary law enforcement purposes. The purpose of law enforcement detention is punitive. … The purpose of military detention, by contrast, is exclusively preventive.”
It is true that Obama did not choose to use a drone to assassinate al-Libi, but it seems twisted to praise a presidential administration for not carrying out an act that would have been more lawless and an even worse violation of Libya’s sovereignty.
Between the raid in Somalia and the rendition operation in Libya, the focus should not be on whether these operations worked or not but rather what they say about America’s ongoing dirty wars.
As “Hunter,” who served under General Stanley McChrystal, Admiral William McRaven and other Special Forces commanders as a member of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) told Jeremy Scahill for his book, Dirty Wars, “The world is a battlefield and we are at war. Therefore the military can go wherever they please and do whatever it is that they want to do, in order to achieve the national security objectives of whichever administration happens to be in power.”
Much of the actions are of “questionable legality” and outside “any stated battlefield.” Despite that, many in JSOC are supportive of the “extralegal nature” and men in the force are like “wolf packs at the tip of the spear doing what some believe is God’s work and some believe is America’s work.” They are fulfilling a vision that former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had for how America would fulfill its agenda around the world.
It is like Buzzy Krongard, former executive director of the CIA, said in 2001 that the War on Terrorism would be “won in large measure by forces you do not know about, in actions you will not see and in ways you may not want to know about.”
Thus, the Obama administration has not only learned, as Cheney would say, that these operations are “appropriate.” His administration has grown to rely upon them in order to maintain America’s dominance in the world. They have pragmatically chosen what policies are sustainable and what policies are not. That has left former Bush administration officials feeling vindicated because fewer and fewer in the establishment question the doctrine for justifying the unrestrained use of force they made popular—that the world is a battlefield and US forces “can go wherever they please” to “protect national security.”