Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

SCOTUS and Obama broadly define ‘material support’ of ‘terrorist organizations’

Posted in Barack Obama, Supreme Court, terrorism, United States, war crimes by allisonkilkenny on June 26, 2010

Jesus, take the wheel. SCOTUS recently handed down a decision — reenforcing an Obama administration policy — that is so dumb it rivals John Roberts’s “what is this ’email’ you speak of?” moment of shame.

The court, and Obama, broadly defined “material support” of so-called terrorist organizations.

While the relevant statute defines “material support” to include a long list of items that are clearly connected to the violent activities of terrorists, it also includes more ambiguous terms such as “any…service,…training, expert advice or assistance.”

Basically, this decision means peacekeepers like Jimmy Carter could be accused of offering “material support,” meaning any service, which could include counsel or mediation, to groups like the democratically elected Hamas.

Also, notice the term “terrorist group” is a completely arbitrary label. Hamas, though they came to power in a democratic election, is a terrorist group, while Israel, which receives billions of dollars in aid from the US, and uses illegal weapons like white phosphorous against a civilian population, and continues to exercise collective punishment unabated by western bystanders, is an “important ally.”

The plaintiff in the SCOTUS case was The Humanitarian Law Project (HLP), a group that

wished to provide training to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the use of “humanitarian and international law to peacefully resolve disputes”; “engage in political advocacy on behalf of the Kurds who live in Turkey”; and “teach PKK members how to petition various representative bodies such as the United Nations for relief.”

The PKK has been labeled a “foreign terrorist organization.” Here’s the problem: if these kinds of neutral groups aren’t permitted to reach out to “extremist sects,” there can never be any negotiations. Extremists will not be given the option to back away from the abyss. They only have the option to jump, and we will only be left with war as an inevitability.

In speaking of the IRA, Margaret Thatcher said, “There is no such thing as political murder, political bombing or political violence. There is only criminal murder, criminal bombing and criminal violence. We will not compromise on this.”

Of course, Thatcher ultimately had to compromise. Unless she intended to publicly execute every Irish resistor and issue “purity tests” to Irish citizens – just to make sure she knew where they’re loyalty laid – she had to give the Republic of Ireland a chance to enter the mainstream fold and become a legitimate voice in the political process. On 15 November 1985, Thatcher and Garret FitzGerald signed the Hillsborough Anglo-Irish Agreement – the first time the Brits gave the Republic of Ireland an advisory role in the governance of Northern Ireland.

Had Thatcher applied the “material support” standard to FitzGerald, the treaty would have never taken place. FitzGerald was the man who helped deal with the H-Block hunger strikers in July 1981, launched by IRA prisoners including Bobby Sands. That counsel would probably have landed FitzGerald in some hot water, resulting in the dreaded “material support” accusation.

But rational people, who have been blessed with the gift of hindsight, can probably see why this compromise was a good, albeit imperfect, thing (“advisory” is hardly “equal”). Nonetheless, it’s important to keep the possibility of negotiation open at all times. Unfortunately, Americans have been trained by lazy “kill ’em all dead” leaders, and a bloodthirsty media, to believe the ridiculous notion that the US “does not negotiate with terrorists.”

The truth is the US compromises with terrorists every day. Sometimes, in the case of Israel, the US government simply doesn’t call them terrorists. They’re called allies. In the case of the US itself, when its military executes civilians, illegally detains individuals without charges, spies on its own citizens, supports warlords, or performs acts of collective punishment, it’s called liberating a populace from tyranny.

The US has both indirectly and directly supports warlords, coups, and terrorist groups for decades.


The United States is indirectly paying tens of millions of dollars in protection money to Afghan warlords, and potentially to the Taliban, to secure convoys carrying supplies to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, congressional investigators said in a report.


The 1953 Iranian coup d’état, on August 19, 1953 (and called the 28 Mordad coup d’état in Iran), was the overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh by the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency.

I could list dozens of examples of the US committing both indirect and direct instances of support for terrorist acts and groups, including the exciting examples of launching illegal wars, overthrowing more democratically elected leaders, and committing crimes against humanity.

That’s what makes this ruling even more nefarious. Not only is it highly hypocritical in that special American way (it’s cool if we do it, but not if you do it,) but it also literally crushes any chance of peaceful resolutions. The only way to stop terrorists is to invite them in from the fringe. That isn’t to say you then have to adopt some of their more insane policies (like abusing women, and hurting other minorities,) but this was never the goal of peacekeepers like Jimmy Carter, anyway.

Negotiators are an essential first step in any reconciliation process. They have to know they can operate in an autonomous, neutral place. This ruling removes that protection, and it will permanently damage the peace process.

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  1. […] Negotiators are an essential first step in any reconciliation process. They have to know they can operate in an autonomous, neutral place. This ruling removes that protection, and it will permanently damage the peace process.Source:… […]

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