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September 22, 2014


New ISIS Recording Urges Muslims to Kill Civilians in US-Led Coalition Countries


A 42-minute audio recording by an ISIS spokesman was released on social media Sunday, in which the group calls on Muslims to kill civilians in countries that belong to the anti-ISIS U.S.-led coalition.

"If you can kill a disbelieving American or European - especially the spiteful and filthy French - or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be," an ISIS spokesman says.

This latest threat comes as ISIS posts new pictures of some of its British recruits, and President Obama heads to the UN to seek an international effort to stop such ISIS fighters from traveling unimpeded to spread their war of terror.

But U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power told George Stephanopoulos on "This Week," stopping the threat from ISIS and its fighters won't happen anytime soon.

"We think again the strategy can succeed, and most importantly that we have the greatest military in the world, they believe that," Power said. "I think the president has said it will be over several years."

U.S. and British authorities this morning are also bracing for word on the fate of ISIS hostage Alan Henning.

Over the weekend there were new pleas for mercy from his wife and from leaders of the Muslim community, even al Qaeda, that he be spared because the one time British taxi driver only went to Syria as a driver for an Islamic relief mission.




ISIL Is Contained And That Should Be Good Enough

by Christopher Bolan

You wouldn't know it from the threat inflation (see here and here) by U.S. senior officials and politicians concerning the Islamic State — aka ISIL, ISIS, ISI, and AQI — but this terrorist threat is already successfully contained and poses little immediate or direct threat to American interests in the region or globally.

Yes, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel claimed that ISIL is an “imminent threat to every interest we have.” But let's evaluate that assertion based on the evidence against the enduring national interests as articulated in the 2010 National Security Strategy.

Oil & Economic prosperity: ISIL has seized control of oil production facilities and is making money from illicit oil smuggling through Turkey, Syria, and Kurdish Iraq. But U.S. interests are primarily tied to the global price of oil and ensuring open access to the rich energy reserves of the region. This combination ensures competitively priced oil that literally fuels global economic growth. Oil prices continue to fall and the U.S. Energy Information Administration has revised its long-range outlook predicting prices “below $100 a barrel until early in the next decade.”

Homeland security: The barbarity of the beheadings of two American journalists and a British aid worker broadcast in videos viewed across the world have served dual interests of the these terrorists: to inspire fear among the public; and provoke an overreaction by status quo powers. Surveys suggest that (aided by threat exaggerations referred to above) a majority of the American public is convinced that ISIL has the ability to strike targets in the United States. But career-professional security and intelligence experts reviewing the actual evidence have drawn the opposite conclusion. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson earlier this month admitted, “we have no credible information that ISIL is planning to attack the homeland of the United States.” Meanwhile, National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen, in a speech at the Brookings Institute, stated that ISIL is not capable of carrying out large-scale attacks and noted that the United States is “so much better postured, in so many ways, to see, detect, stop any attack like what we saw on 9/11.”

Now none of these statements mean that there is absolutely no risk of attacks inspired by ISIL or its ilk. As reports from Australia suggest, there will always be a few psychopathic killers who will find perverse inspiration from the hatred and false religion espoused by groups such as ISIL. But the best solutions to these thankfully few and far between threats are essentially defensive: focused intelligence, professional law enforcement, and effective border controls.

International Order & Regional Stability: ISIL has clearly taken advantage of the ungoverned spaces left in the wake of Syria's bloody civil war. It also has managed to find temporary allies in the alienated Sunni communities of Iraq as a result of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shi'a sectarian rule in Baghdad. But ISIL has at best some 30,000 fighters mostly equipped with small arms including rifles and a few artillery pieces, although it has been able to add to this arsenal thanks to the vehicles and armaments seized from fleeing U.S. equipped Iraqi forces. They are opposed by a U.S.-equipped and trained Iraqi active frontline military estimated at 271,500 and equipped with main battle tanks, heavy artillery, and armored personnel carriers. Moreover, U.S., Russian, and Iranian fighter aircraft conducting supportive strikes are supporting these Iraqi forces. ISIL simply does not have the military capacity to seriously threaten the larger global or regional order (such as it is in the wake of the Arab uprisings, but that's for another posting). While ISIL has taken advantage of the chaos in Syria and boiling sectarian tensions in Iraq, it is not the proximate cause for either of these conflicts.

Respect for universal values: ISIL's brutality and abusive rule is obviously contrary to the Western liberal values of freedom and basic human dignity. However, the same can be said of virtually any violent criminal or extremist group. For instance, Mexican drug cartels conducted nearly 50 beheadings in a single month, have killed some 55,000, and aside from sharing a lengthy border with the United States, already have a major presence inside the country and have targeted and killed U.S. Customs officials. Why is ISIL's brutality any more offensive to U.S. values than that of other terrorist or criminal groups?

President Obama: Even in his speech justifying additional U.S. military action against ISIL, President Barack Obama offered a distinctly qualified assessment of the threat from ISIL. Specifically, he asserted that If left unchecked, [ISIL] could pose a growth threat beyond that region, including to the United States.” [emphasis mine] The fact is ISIL is already being actively opposed by numerous actors throughout the region — Kurdish peshmerga, elements of the Iraqi military, Iraqi Shi'a militias, Iran, and Syria. (Including the government, the Free Syrian Army, and other opposition groups, such as ISIL's fellow Islamist extremist groups. Yes, politics makes for strange bedfellows.) Moreover, Obama's use of the word “could” itself is an open admission that ISIL is not an immediate threat, but rather one that might emerge over the course of time.

Given all of the above, it's apparent that a contained ISIL is demonstrably not an immediate threat to vital U.S. national security interests in the region. In an age of fiscal austerity and after more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan yielding little in tangible benefits, containment of ISIL is a responsible, feasible, achievable, and entirely sensible American strategic objective.

Little else by the U.S. needs to be done. ISIL has already been effectively contained by its own overreach and the fear it has inspired throughout the region. In military terms, it has reached a culminating point. ISIL's appeal is limited to disenfranchised Sunni Arab communities that have been marginalized politically and savagely attacked by sectarian Shi'a and Alawite leaders in Baghdad and Damascus. Moreover, the desert area between Iraq and Syria is effectively surrounded by ISIL's natural and mortal enemies (in the north by Kurds in Syria and Iraq; in the east by Shi'a Iran; in the south by Shi'a Iraqis, and the west by Alawite and Druze Syrian communities). As Tom Friedman and Rami Khouri have recently editorialized, the long-term solution to these violent Islamist extremist groups must come from the Arab societies and governments from which they spring.

Despite this evidence, however, many insist that more must be done by the U.S. government to destroy ISIL. But advocates of this more expansive objective must convincingly answer several questions associated with an approach involving deeper U.S. military engagement.

First and foremost, the United States deployed hundreds of thousands of combat troops who engaged in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for more than a decade, at a cost of several trillion dollars. In addition, thousands of U.S. servicemen and women were killed, and tens of thousands wounded. Yet these monumental efforts failed to prevent the emergence of al-Qaeda in Iraq or its subsequent manifestations including ISIL. What is different about the situation now? Why should anyone expect that this new military campaign involving far fewer military resources will succeed when prior campaigns have failed?

Secondly, how do supporters of a broader U.S. military campaign address the absence of committed, effective, and reliable regional powers willing to stand against ISIL?There is a new prime minister in Baghdad, but he comes from the same sectarian background as Maliki. Do we have evidence he will implement (not just promise) policies that will be substantively more inclusive of Iraq's Sunni and Kurdish minorities? Doesn't deeper U.S. military commitments in the absence of these concrete reforms actually decrease his incentive to take these difficult political steps?

Moreover, governments bordering ISIL are questionable partners at best. Turkey (out of concerns for its hostages who were being held captive by ISIL in Mosul, and alarmist worries about Kurdish desires for independence being further enabled by increased U.S. military assistance) has openly refused to participate in the U.S. strategy articulated by Obama. Meanwhile, U.S. official policy is to oust Syrian President Bashir al-Assad thereby imposing inherent limitations on the cooperation we are likely to get from this neighboring country. Finally, although it would make perfect sense to cooperate with Iran against Sunni extremist elements such as ISIL, domestic politics and other foreign policy concerns on both sides are already handicapping any joint efforts from this important regional player bordering Iraq. This doesn't even get into the double games being played by Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia — a country genuinely threatened by ISIL's religious claims to the caliphate yet at the same time one that is funding and spreading reactionary Wahhabi interpretations of Islam fueling these same extremist groups — and Qatar — a small player punching well above its geopolitical weight, and whose official position is to support radical extremist groups in Syria and elsewhere in the region.

Thirdly, a strategy reliant largely on the exercise of military power risks undermining international and domestic law, to the detriment of U.S. interests. How do advocates of yet another war in the Middle East spearheaded by the United States avoid further damage to the perceived legitimacy of U.S. military actions both here and abroad? Obama has given no indication of whether he will appeal to the U.N. Security Council to gain international support for military action in Syria. Moreover, no such approval is likely given the near-certain opposition from Moscow. The absence of support in the United Nations, however, undermines the legitimacy of U.S. military actions in the eyes of many, to include those from Arab publics on whom we will depend to discredit, isolate, and ultimately destroy violent extremist Islamist groups such as ISIL. U.S. military strikes will also inevitably play into the Islamist narrative that the United States is at war with Islam, swelling the recruiting ranks for ISIL and any subsequent variants.

Perhaps even more importantly, President Obama has not committed to seeking an up or down congressional vote authorizing expanded U.S. military attacks against ISIL. President George H.W. Bush courageously did so in advance of Desert Storm in 1990, successfully securing support in a divided Congress, and as a result, largely united the country and world behind his military campaign to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. Our national values are indeed our greatest moral strength and have been seriously tarnished by panic-inspired policies in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, including the official sanction and use of torture in interrogations, indefinite detentions without trial, and spying on U.S. citizens by our domestic intelligence agencies. An express congressional authorization (if not a formal declaration of war) for expanded military attacks against ISIL in Iraq and Syria would at least show the world that we comply with U.S. law even during difficult times (when it matters most).

Finally, despite Obama's sincere desire to divest the country from expensive and “dumb” wars in the Middle East, his decision to launch another preventive war in this region already racked by civil war and rife with sectarian tensions virtually ensures a continuation of America's forever war. To paraphrase Gen. David Petraeus, can anyone tell us how this ends?

Dr. Christopher Bolan is a Professor of National Security Affairs at The U.S. Army War College. The views expressed are his own.



Resources to help prevent police officer suicide

Have you seen a fellow officer who suddenly begins taking unnecessary risks on and off duty? Have you observed a shift in attitude and/or demeanor, like a change from motivated and professional to apathetic and flippant? Perhaps a cop you know has begun to show increased signs of aggressiveness and/or chronic anger.

Have you witnessed a colleague suddenly increase alcohol consumption and/or have a loss in interest in recreational things the officer previously liked to do?

Have you heard a cop on your PD suddenly begin talking about death, dying, or suicide? Perhaps an officer in your ranks made statements of hopelessness like:

“None of this really matters anyway.”

“I don't even know why we try out here.”

“We can't really do anything anyway.”

“This is a losing battle and I'm tired of it.”

Have you observed any of the above in the person you see in the mirror every day before your shift?

If so, you may have an opportunity to save a life (maybe even your own), because those are among the behaviors commonly seen in an individual contemplating suicide.

More cops commit suicide than are feloniously killed in the line of duty — depending on whose data you site, somewhere between 125 and 150 officers reportedly kill themselves annually. Even one officer taking his or her own life is too many.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014 is World Suicide Prevention Day. Let's use this day as the starting point in changing police culture, and preventing police suicide. As PoliceOne Columnist Larry Miller wrote in this article, “There has to be a convenient and non-stigmatized system for referring distressed officers for psychological help, and this must be framed in health-maintenance context, not as a disciplinary procedure.”

Emotional survival is just as critical as physical survival, and yet it is all too frequently insufficiently addressed — and in worst case scenarios, mental health issues are ignored altogether, both by the affected officer and the command staff in charge of their wellbeing.

As was stated in the IACP report Breaking the Silence on Law Enforcement Suicides, “From body armor to firearms training and on-site gyms and fitness programs, there are numerous measures in place to ensure an officer's physical safety. But what is the profession doing to protect and support the mental health of officers? Tragically, many agencies lack the resources and the critical guidance to improve and protect their officers/ mental health and wellness.”

Among the many resources offered by IACP on this matter, a good place to start is with their publication entitled Developing a Law Enforcement Suicide Prevention Campaign Using Public Health Principles.

Whether you're a beat cop or among the command staff of your agency, ensure you're able to recognize the signs of potentially suicidal behavior, both in yourself and in fellow officers, and that you feel confident enough to take the appropriate steps to help stop a potentially devastating downward spiral.

The American Association of Suicidology has created a mnemonic to help you recognize the warning signs that someone may be contemplating suicide. The mnemonic is “IS PATH WARM” and I've pasted it below:

I Ideation
S Substance Abuse

P Purposelessness
A Anxiety
T Trapped
H Hopelessness

W Withdrawal
A Anger
R Recklessness
M Mood Changes

Check out the excellent video — entitled Breaking the Silence: Preventing Suicide in Law Enforcement — embedded below. At the end of it there are numerous resources listed, and to make it easier for you to access them I'm put a number of links to those and other resources here.


Safe Call Now

Serve & Protect

Badge of Life

Code 9 Officer Needs Assistance Documentary

National Police Suicide Foundation

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

The Pain Behind the Badge

DOJ Report on Suicide and Law Enforcement

PoliceOne Contributor Olivia Johnson — the Illinois State Representative and Board Member for the National P.O.L.I.C.E. Suicide Foundation and founder of the Blue Wall Institute http://www.bw-institute.com/ — summed it up by noting that suicide does not end the pain. It just transfers it to others.

“Many individuals contemplating suicide may see the act as a way out or as a 'solution' to a problem. This could not be farther from the truth. A death by suicide leaves so many unanswered questions, so many pointing fingers with blame and guilt, and it can even open the door for others to contemplate the act themselves.

“No matter what you are struggling with or trying to deal with, you are not alone. What I can tell you is that choosing to end one's life does not allow for the possibility to ever find happiness. It never allows for the thought of a bright future. It may be difficult to see brighter days ahead, but they are there and there are people ready and willing right now to help you through the darkness and to walk with you back into the light. Please reach out today because someone is counting on you tomorrow,” Johnson said.



Children's Rights Groups Against Giving School Cops Military Hardware

by Susan Ferriss

From The Center for Public Integrity:

More than 20 national education and civil rights advocates sent a letter Monday to Department of Defense officials, urging them to stop giving U.S. school police departments anti-mine vehicles, military-grade firearms like M16s and even grenade launchers.

News reports and lists of recipients of surplus hardware reveal that assault-style rifles, armored vehicles and other military supplies have been handed over to school districts large and small, from California, Texas, Nevada and Utah to Florida, Georgia, Kansas and Michigan.

In California, the San Diego Unified School District acquired an 18-ton Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, called an MRAP, through the DOD's 1033 program to transfer surplus supplies to civilian law enforcement. In June, the Los Angeles Unified School District also received an MRAP, which was designed to protect U.S. troops under attack in Iraq.

Over time, the LA school police also have received 61 M-16 rifles and three grenade launchers that have never been used.

“Adding the presence of military-grade weapons to school climates that have become increasingly hostile due to their over-reliance on police to handle routine student discipline can only exacerbate existing tensions,” said the protest letter, signed by the NAACP's Legal Defense and Education Fund and public-interest law groups Texas Appleseed of Austin, Texas, and Public Counsel, which is based in Los Angeles.

Controversy over so-called militarization of school police comes just as the LA district is enacting policies that limit ticketing of students for minor infractions and curb the controversial use of officers in school discipline, as the Center for Public Integrity has reported.

Both Texas Appleseed and Public Counsel have been active in pushing for states and districts to reform policies regarding how school police are deployed on campuses.

Other signatories to the letter objecting to military hardware for school police include the Children's Law Center, the Education Law Center, the National Center for Youth Law, the Advancement Project — also active in urging school police reforms — and the LA-based Labor-Community Strategy Center.

Scrutiny of transfers of military supplies from the DOD's Defense Logistics Agency erupted following revelations that many city police departments have been accumulating military hardware designed primarily for war.

Among the cities that obtained military equipment for free, or just for delivery costs, was Ferguson, Mo., where local police rolled out armored vehicles and officers in combat-like gear to respond to protests in August over an officer's fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.

President Barack Obama in August ordered a review of the 1033 program. The Defense Logistics Agency did not respond immediately to a request for a comment on the letter regarding school police. But on Sept. 9, a Defense Department official addressed the 1033 program's provision of hardware to law enforcement in general during a hearing before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Each state has a 1033 program state coordinator who is appointed by the state's governor and who approves law enforcement agencies that apply to participate in the program. The state coordinator also screens and approves requests those agencies make for items listed in catalogues, explained Alan Estevez, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition, logistics and technology.

“It is worth noting that we are not ‘pushing' equipment on any police force,” Estevez said. He said the Defense Logistics Agency conducts a basic review of requests based on size of a department. For example, he said, a law enforcement department of 10 officers would not receive 20 M16 rifles.

The letter objecting to the program noted that 10 Texas school districts, the most reported in one state so far, have been receiving DOD hardware.

“Altogether, these 10 districts have received 64 M-16 rifles, 18 M-14 rifles, 25 automatic pistols, extended magazines and 4,500 rounds of ammunition,” the letter said. “Some of these Texas districts received armored plating, tactical vests and military vehicles.”

Texas' Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District, which has 33,500 students, has outfitted its own SWAT team with these supplies, the letter said.

Deborah Fowler, deputy director of Texas Appleseed, said militarization of police runs contrary to efforts to prevent excessive use of force against students.

“Military-grade weapons have no place on our public school campuses,” Fowler said. “We have already seen the way that much more common weapons — like Tasers and pepper spray — can be misused in school settings, and know that excessive use of force in schools is often targeted at young people of color and students with disabilities.”

In Aledo, Texas, the town's school police — in a district of 5,000 students — have decided to return five U.S. military rifles officers obtained from the 1033 program, according to a recent report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The department has seven full-time officers and 11 reserve officers.

In Los Angeles, Manuel Criollo, an organizer with the Labor-Community Strategy Center, called on the LA school district to return the military hardware. “The intersection of criminalization and militarization in our schools should be rejected,” said Criollo, who helped draft the LA school police policies.

LA school police chief Steve Zimmerman said the MRAP was obtained as a way to transport schoolchildren in the event of a large-scale attack, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

The chief is now evaluating whether the vehicle and grenade launchers are necessary, the newspaper said. The school police have an agreement with city police and county sheriff's deputies to provide support in the event of civil unrest, according to Zimmerman, and the grenade launchers were to be outfitted to fire rubber bullets.

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