Adonis Diaries

Archive for June 7th, 2020

And what kinds of courage? Other this faked “Moral Courage” or “Moral Entity”?

Edward Snowden, Hugh Thompson, Daniel Ellsberg, whistle-blowers…

Note: Re-edit of “Moral Courage? And what other kinds of courage? March 5, 2014

Last Thursday Chris Hedges opened a team debate at the Oxford Union at Oxford University with this speech arguing in favor of the proposition “This house would call Edward Snowden a hero.”

The others on the Hedges team, which won the debate by an audience vote of 212 to 171, were William E. Binney, a former National Security Agency official and a whistle-blower; Chris Huhne, a former member of the British Parliament; and Annie Machon, a former intelligence officer for the United Kingdom.

The opposing team was made up of Philip J. Crowley, a former U.S. State Department officer; Stewart A. Baker, a former chief counsel for the National Security Agency; Jeffrey Toobin, an American television and print commentator; and Oxford student Charles Vaughn.

Chris Hedges posted this Feb.23, 2014

Edward Snowden’s Moral Courage

I have been to war. I have seen physical courage.

But this kind of courage is not moral courage. Very few of even the bravest warriors have moral courage.

For moral courage means to defy the crowd, to stand up as a solitary individual, to shun the intoxicating embrace of comradeship, to be disobedient to authority, even at the risk of your life, for a higher principle.

And with moral courage comes persecution.

The American Army pilot Hugh Thompson had moral courage. He landed his helicopter between a platoon of U.S. soldiers and 10 terrified Vietnamese civilians during the My Lai massacre.

Thompson ordered his gunner to fire his M60 machine gun on the advancing U.S. soldiers if they began to shoot the villagers. And for this act of moral courage, Thompson, like Snowden, was hounded and reviled.

Moral courage always looks like this.

It is always defined by the state as treason—the Army attempted to cover up the massacre and court-martial Thompson. It is the courage to act and to speak the truth. Thompson had it.

Daniel Ellsberg had it. Martin Luther King had it.

What those in authority once said about them they say today about Snowden.

In this still image from video footage released by WikiLeaks on Oct. 11, 2013, former National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden speaks in Moscow during a presentation ceremony for the Sam Adams Award. (AP photo)

“My country, right or wrong” is the moral equivalent of “my mother, drunk or sober,” G.K. Chesterton reminded us.

So let me speak to you about those drunk with the power to sweep up all your email correspondence, your tweets, your Web searches, your phone records, your file transfers, your live chats, your financial data, your medical data,

And your criminal and civil court records and your movements, those who are awash in billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars, those who have banks of sophisticated computer systems, along with biosensors, scanners, face recognition technologies and miniature drones, those who have obliterated your anonymity, your privacy and, yes, your liberty.

There is no free press without the ability of the reporters to protect the confidentiality of those who have the moral courage to make public the abuse of power.

Those few individuals inside government who dared to speak out about the system of mass surveillance have been charged as spies or hounded into exile.

An omnipresent surveillance state—and I covered the East German Stasi state—creates a climate of paranoia and fear. It makes democratic dissent impossible.

Any state that has the ability to inflict full-spectrum dominance on its citizens is Not a free state.

It does not matter if it does not use this capacity today; it will use it, history has shown, should it feel threatened or seek greater control.

The goal of wholesale surveillance, as Hannah Arendt wrote: ” is Not, in the end, to discover crimes, but to be on hand when the government decides to arrest a certain category of the population.”

The relationship between those who are constantly watched and tracked and those who watch and track them is the relationship between masters and slaves.

Those who wield this unchecked power become delusional.

Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency, hired a Hollywood set designer to turn his command center at Fort Meade into a replica of the bridge of the starship Enterprise so he could sit in the captain’s chair and pretend he was Jean-Luc Picard.

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, had the audacity to lie under oath to Congress.

This spectacle was a rare glimpse into the absurdist theater that now characterizes American political life.

A congressional oversight committee holds public hearings. It is lied to.

It knows it is being lied to.

The person who lies knows the committee members know he is lying.

And the committee, to protect their security clearances, says and does nothing.

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Violent Extremism? Where is the challenge of defining what is violent?

Criminal Justice versus Human Rights analysts?

Note: Re-edit of “The Challenge of Defining Violent Extremism, January 12, 2019

Omar Nashabe, Criminal Justice and Human Rights analyst

January 2019

This article is part of a series published by LCPS with the support of the Embassy of Switzerland on Preventing Violent Extremism in Lebanon.
In this piece, Dr. Omar Nashabe examines and details concerns with defining violent extremism broadly and offers a definition best suited to the Lebanese context. 

In response to the United Nations’ call to member states to develop a Preventive Violent Extremism (PVE) strategy in 2016, the Lebanese government swiftly moved to do so. (Nothing in Lebanon is as swift as talking and armchair babbling)A key element of such a strategy is precisely defining violent extremism in order Not to conflate it with concepts like radicalization, fundamentalism, and intolerance, particularly as it could also be erroneously associated with a specific religion (Islam) or ideology (anarchy, white supremacy, the radical left, etc.).

While the Lebanese government definition seems promising, it needs to be elaborated on in order to avoid confusion and guide policy-making. (This is a first:  guide policy-making?)

Any serious and credible attempt to address VE requires a more sober definition, one which goes beyond reducing to terrorism that which is, in fact, the outcome of a participatory process and consultation.

There are two concerns regarding efforts to define VE:

The first concern centers on how the UN associated VE with terrorism by adding “as and when conducive to terrorism” to the concept of violent extremism in its Global Counter Terrorism Strategy.

This association is problematic in that Not all VE acts are conducive to terrorism.

For instance, while violent extremists may act collectively, be ideologically motivated, and have well-defined objectives and methods—hence in such cases extremist violence is probably conducive to terrorism—violent extremism may also be the product of individual acts driven by circumstantial facts and less affected by ideology.

In such cases, violent extremism may not be conducive to terrorism. This is an important distinction to make, namely, that actions associated with VE and terrorism may in some cases overlap but not in all cases.

The second concern centers on how the Lebanese government has defined VE in its strategy.

According to the National Strategy for the Prevention of Violent Extremism, “VE is the propagation of individual and social hatred that may lead to societal violence, namely the rejection of diversity and disobedience, the use of violence as a means of expression and influence, and behavior that threatens societal values that govern social stability.” (Does this include civil disobedience? And what social values should be retained after generation living under pseudo-governments?)

While this definition has sound elements, it requires further elaboration and clarity.

For example, it is not clear what “rejection of diversity and disobedience” means. More precisely, does “rejection” pertain to both “diversity” and “disobedience” and does the latter refer to civil disobedience as well?

Two, it should be noted that the use of violence as a means of expression may not always amount to violent extremism (for example using violence to express rejection of foreign occupation).

Third, there is a need to identify specific “Societal values that govern social stability”.

Although Lebanon developed its legal definition of terrorism in 1958, like most other UN member states, it has formulated a seemingly inadequate working definition of violent extremism.

The term inherently refers to the degree of a certain action but does not precisely qualify it.

This point is well illustrated by the fact that PVE measures in many states are poorly defined, often with the intent of using PVE measures to suppress political opposition or ideological dissent.

In many of these states, legislation against violent extremism has been used to target journalists, religious groups, or critics of state policy.

To this end, I suggest adopting the following definition of violent extremism in the Lebanese context:

Intolerant and aggressive persons or groups, thriving on conflicts and wars, and engaging, or planning to engage, in offenses involving brutal armed aggression aimed at hurting, degrading, or exterminating others and, in some cases, motivated by interpretations of religious or political ideology.”

(How this definition has Lebanon in context?)

This definition should be understood within the context of violent extremism existing along a spectrum, one which spans from encompassing individuals or groups of people engaging in the aforementioned behaviors to a range of motivations for these individuals or groups exhibiting violent extremist characteristics, spanning from circumstantial to ideological convictions.

Effective PVE strategies must be based on proper diagnosis and precise understandings of violent extremism that take into account cultural, political, and socio-economic contexts.

First, violent extremism seems to be motivated by hate; religious, social, and cultural intolerance; and in some cases, by an ideology that accepts or encourages extreme violence against others who do not share the same thoughts, identity, or culture.

Second, the connection between violence and extremism appears static, and violent extremists are radical in the sense that they are inflexible, non-negotiable, and do not accept peaceful conflict resolution.

(Is Lebanon political structure based on peaceful conflict resolution?)

Third, violent extremism is frequent in conflict zones, where it is heavily motivated by ideologies based on non-mainstream interpretations of religion and culture and where people have lost hope in the ability of democratic governments to provide basic needs.

Violent extremists are not necessarily members of an organization, however, they most likely have had direct or indirect contact with other extremists or with a specific extremist group that advocates for extreme violence.

Lastly, although violent extremist action may be conducive to encouraging or perpetuating acts of terrorism and may itself be a “terrorist” crime, this may not be the case for all violent extremists. (Come again?)

Based on the profile of violent extremists, they seem to share certain characteristics:

They are intolerant, aggressive, and thrive on conflicts and wars.

They are characterized by their willingness to engage in or plan actions entailing brutal armed aggression and are often motivated by religious or political ideology. (These are Not characteristics: they are consequences)

In fact, violent extremists can be classified into three types.

The first type is closely associated with ideology, comprising those connected to known terrorist organizations, making them easier to define on account of their objectives, ideology, and methods being apparent.

This type is more collective and encompasses violent extremists who, for instance, adhere to the ideology of Osama Bin Laden and Ayman Al Zawahiri, and rely on Al-Qaeda as a reference for “religious” guidance. (Does that include Zionism ideology and Wahhabi sect doctrine?)

Both the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and Osbat al-Ansar group’s objectives are based on the establishment of an Islamic state and the extermination of “disbelievers.”

Violent extremist groups of this type leave no room for moderate positions. Their radicalized narrative is centered on violent conflict with all those who disagree with their ideology, including state and religious institutions and supporters of secularism in the Arab region and in the West.

The second type of violent extremists in Lebanon is less associated with ideology as they are primarily members of offshoots of Lebanese militias and political parties.

They are not as clearly defined as the first type and do not strictly follow the instructions of their political leaders. Rather, they represent an extremist trend within their communities.

Offshoots of militias and political parties show signs of religious, social, and cultural intolerance, as well as aspirations to brutally exterminate rivals.

Supporters of such violent extremism are either former combatants who participated in the civil war and were pardoned by the 1990 Amnesty Law, or young individuals motivated by religious and political propaganda.

Recent examples of this type of violent extremism include violent attacks against Al-Jadeed television for criticizing a political leader; sectarian/religious tension in Jbeil (Lassa); and hate speech and vicious language used by supporters of political/sectarian groups on social media. (Particularly in university student elections?)

The third type of violent extremism is not connected to an ideology and is based on individual and circumstantial initiatives. It comprises sporadic perpetrators of violence and is the least well defined. In fact, the perpetrators seem unstable and do not refer to a specific political movement and may belong to any religious group.

The perpetrators of this type of violence are, however, instigators of social panic.

The influx of Syrian refugees to Lebanon six years ago led to the escalation of racist, xenophobic, and violent reactions in various parts of the country.

These violent reactions were mostly verbal and economic in nature, however, since the Lebanese Army began engaging militant groups on the border with Syria, incidents of violent extremism targeting Syrian refugees and Syrian workers have become more frequent, and some Lebanese have started to show support for such violent extremism.

Based on the types of VE, there is need to develop a more dynamic understanding of the causes and circumstances that exacerbate religious, social, and cultural intolerance as well as the use of brutal and violent means of expression.

These points highlight that clarity is vital when conceptualizing violent extremism in the Lebanese context, particularly as these definitions will be referenced when formulating or implementing future policies on matters involving the threat of extremism.

Note: I can understand that an individual terrorist enters a house and assassinate every member. When every Daesh member does this in every instance when occupying a town, it is far beyond brainwashing or religious zeal: it is colonial powers testing drugs that render an individual totally insensitive to human life.




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