Faisal Shahzad pled guilty to all ten counts of charges stemming from his failed terror attempt to detonate explosives in crowded Times Square on May 1. He said, “It’s a war” and that he was avenging the deaths of innocent Muslim women and children killed by US drone attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq. The guilty plea was heard in Federal District Court in New York on June 21. Shahzad was referring to the deadly drone attacks which have been doubled by President Obama over the number of attacks made by the Bush administration. The attacks were carried out by the Joint Special Operations Command which was headed by General Stanley McChrystal from April 2003 to August 2008 with the help of the CIA. Obama removed McChrystal as commander of American forces in Afghanistan on June 23 and replaced him with General David Patraeus.
Obama stood in the White House Rose Garden with Vice President Biden, General Patraeus and other top military brass and “regretfully” accepted General McChrystal’s resignation. Obama said he did so because snide and derogatory remarks from the general and his staff about senior administration officials in a Rolling Stone article were contemptuous. Among many other disparaging comments, McChrystal told a Rolling Stone reporter that he felt the new President looked “uncomfortable and intimidated” while meeting with senior military officers just after Obama was inaugurated. In the chaotic turn of events, Obama summoned McChrystal to the White House from Afghanistan where he has been commander of the increasingly unpopular war. A recent ABC / Washington Post poll revealed that people felt the war was not worth fighting by a 53 to 44 margin. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll had 62% of the American people saying the country was going in the wrong direction and Obama’s approval rating at 45% with 48% disapproval.
“War is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general or president,” Obama said. “As difficult as it is to lose General McChrystal, I believe it is the right decision for national security.” “I welcome debate among my team,” he said, “but I won’t tolerate division.”
McChrystal’s first controversy in the Afghanistan war was in 2004 when he tried, amid the chaos, to cover up the fact that former NFL star Pat Tillman was killed by “friendly fire”.
Obama stressed that this was a change in personnel, but not a change in policy and did not signal a shift in his overall war strategy in Afghanistan, which was designed by McChrystal and adopted by Obama. Under it, 30,000 new American troops have been arriving in recent months, but US and NATO are suffering the most casualties since the war began.
Even people who approve killing of innocent civilians by drone attacks paid for by our tax dollars should have some understanding of Shahzad’s motives for his failed act of terror which will result in his serving a mandatory sentence of life without parole. When the judge asked “You wanted to injure a lot of people?” Shahzad replied that he wanted “to injure people or kill people.” “One has to understand where I’m coming from.” He considered himself “a Muslim soldier,” and that United States had attacked Muslim lands. The judge interjected: “But not the people who were walking in Times Square that night. Did you look around to see who they were?”
Shahzad answered, “Well, the people select the government; we consider them all the same.”
“Including the children?” the judge asked.
Shahzad replied, “Well, the drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq…don’t see children; they don’t see anybody. They kill women, children. They kill everybody. It’s a war. And in war, they kill people. They’re killing all Muslims: I am part of the answer to the U.S. terrorizing the Muslim nations and the Muslim people. And … I'm avenging the attack. Living in the United States, Americans only care about their own people, but they don't care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die."
Mr. Shahzad was unapologetic. “I want to plead guilty, and I’m going to plead guilty 100 times over, because until the hour the U.S. pulls its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan,…and stops the drone strikes and stops the occupation of Muslim lands, and stops killing the Muslims, we will be attacking U.S., and I plead guilty to that.”
Shahzad also answered the judge’s questions about his background and even his family. “I had a wife and two beautiful kids.” They have returned to Pakistan to be with his parents.
US officials portray the missile strikes as attempts to kill leaders of al Qaeda. US media quote unnamed intelligence officials who claim the victims of the missile strikes are all “militants,” without any validation of who were killed
A Pakistani newspaper reported that 687 civilians had been killed in approximately 60 drone strikes carried out since January 2008. More than 30 drone attacks have been launched since and the number of Pakistani civilians killed may be more than a 1,000 by now.
General McChaos is canned and Shahzad is going spend his life in jail, but how many more casualties from the longest war in US history and blowback from avenging terrorists will we tolerate?