Posts tagged War
Posts tagged War
Side note: This idiot can’t see the forest for the tree’s. He’s not a “philosopher”, he’s an apologist for the Government. You might think this is a stretch, but I’d put him right up there with the Nazi race “scientists” who created the ‘moral rationale’ for what the Nazi party was doing. IF you really want a REAL moral/ philosophical view on Drone’s - people like Glenn Greenwald provide a much better perspective (because they have what is called ‘ethics’).
It’s one of the US’s most controversial policies; one that resulted in large numbers of civilian deaths overseas. So why does Bradley Strawser see targeted killing as a moral obligation?
At first sight, Bradley Strawser resembles a humanities professor from central casting. He has a beard, wears jeans, quotes Augustine and calls himself, only half in jest, a hippie. He opposes capital punishment and Guantánamo Bay, calls the Iraq invasion unjust and scorns neo-conservative foreign policy hawks. “Whatever a neocon is, I’m the opposite.”
His office overlooks a placid campus in Monterey, an oasis of California sun and Pacific zephyrs, and he lives up the road in Carmel, a forested beauty spot with an arts colony aura. Strawser has published works on metaphysics and Plato and is especially fond of Immanuel Kant.
Strawser is also, it turns out, an outspoken and unique advocate for what is becoming arguably the US’s single most controversial policy: drone strikes. Strawser has plunged into the churning, anguished debate by arguing the US is not only entitled but morally obliged to use drones.
"It’s all upside. There’s no downside. Both ethically and normatively, there’s a tremendous value," he says. "You’re not risking the pilot. The pilot is safe. And all the empirical evidence shows that drones tend to be more accurate. We need to shift the burden of the argument to the other side. Why not do this? The positive reasons are overwhelming at this point. This is the future of all air warfare. At least for the US.”
His forceful defence of the military use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as drones are also called, is largely the reason he has landed a tenure-track post as assistant professor of philosophy at Monterey’s Naval Postgraduate School, an elite college which gives master’s and PhD courses to military officers, academics and policymakers.
The newly created post, part of the school’s defence analysis department, underlines a belief that drones and military ethics are set to become ever more fraught topics in Washington, Islamabad, Kabul and other capitals. “The school wanted a voice in that conversation, so they hired me. My job talk was on the ethics of drones. It’s what I’ve become most known for.”
Strawser, 33, a married father of two young children, just moved here from his previous post as resident research fellow at the Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership in Annapolis, Maryland. He has yet to unpack boxes and properly furnish his office but there is little doubt he will be a vocal, and in some quarters reviled, voice in the debate.
He has edited a book – Killing By Remote Control: The Ethics of an Unmanned Military – to be published soon by Oxford University Press. Drones, controlled by air force operators in Nevada and New Mexico who track targets on screens, have become Washington’s main weapon against Islamist militants in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. The US reportedly has 7,000 drones operating – more than manned aircraft – and 12,000 more on the ground.
The American Civil Liberties Union estimates strikes have killed 4,000 people, a significant number of them civilians, since 2002, with the tempo sharply accelerating under President Barack Obama.
Figures from the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism show that CIA drones stuck Pakistan 75 times in 2011, causing up to 655 fatalities, including as many as 126 civilians.
Pakistani authorities reported that 19 people died last Friday in an attack in the Dattakhel region in North Waziristan, further straining relations with Washington which has ignored protests from Islamabad.
Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, recently said some strikes may constitute “war crimes” and that they would encourage other states to flout long-established human rights standards. Jimmy Carter, the former president, echoed unease amid reports detailing White House “kill lists”.
"The US can no longer speak with moral authority on human rights," Carter said.
Strawser, who calls himself “doveish” on foreign policy, has proven an unexpected and forthright champion for the barrage of Hellfire missiles. His background may partly explain it. He is a self-described “army brat”, the son of an academic father who worked on air force computer systems, and grew up on air force bases.
After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in history and English, he followed his father’s footsteps and served seven years in the air force as an administrator – he did not see combat – before taking graduate night courses and “falling in love” with philosophy. He taught ethics courses while obtaining a PhD. His dissertation was on just war and moral responsibility, a recurring topic in his work.
Strawser now lives in the same town as Clint Eastwood and may soon become known as philosophy’s answer to Dirty Harry. With an affable tone, he methodically blasts objections to the drone strikes taking place 7,000 miles away. “When I started studying this topic I didn’t know this would be my conclusion. But that’s where my analysis led me.”
One objection sometimes posited is that there is something wrong or ignoble in killing through such lopsided asymmetry. “I share the kind of gut feeling that there’s something odd about that. But I don’t see the ethical problem. What matters to me is whether the cause itself is justified. Because if the operation is justified and is the right thing to do – and by the way I’m not claiming all US military strikes are – then asymmetry doesn’t matter.”
In an analogous case of police officers in a shootout with bank robbers you would want the former to have bullet-proof vests, Strawser says. “It’s a moral gain, not a moral problem.”
Another objection is that risk-free remote killing degrades traditional conceptions of valour. “You hear that from within the military and the average American on the street. That’s a real concern, I share it. But when you speak to these pilots – or operators, there’s a debate over the correct term - they’ll tell you it’s a very stressful job. Several of them have had PTSD. Think about what they see all day … you’re watching people die on your screen.”
Side Note: The US Military wants to crack down on PICTURES (aka “Happy Snaps”) of US Soldiers committing war crimes and other acts of degradation from leaving Afghanistan…
Murder, rape and general destruction will carry on as usual by the degenerates we call “US soldiers” however.
By: Dan Lamothe
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — Marine commanders in Afghanistan have cracked down on war-zone photography in the wake of two international scandals this year in which U.S. troops were depicted posing with dead Taliban fighters.
Rank-and-file personnel assigned to Regional Command Southwest, headquartered here in Helmand province, have been ordered to take photographs only for official purposes while outside the wire, said Maj. Gen. Charles Gurganus, head of I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward). Recreational souvenir photographs — “happy snaps,” as Gurganus called them — should only be taken on bases in-between missions, he said.
“If it’s not an official purpose, and they’re outside the wire, then they shouldn’t have their camera out,” Gurganus said in an interview this month with Marine Corps Times. “This isn’t rocket science.”
RC-Southwest comprises Helmand and Nimroz provinces. There are about 36,000 coalition forces from 11 countries there, including 15,800 Marines. An additional 9,000 U.S. soldiers, sailors and airmen also serve under Gurganus’ command.
The general’s instructions reinforce that taking ill-advised photographs can undermine the war effort, Marine officials said. Separate scandals erupted earlier this year after a video surfaced online showing Marines appearing to urinate on dead Taliban fighters and photographs were published by the Los Angeles Times showing U.S. soldiers posing with dead insurgents.
The U.S. military has long prohibited the photographing or filming of detainees or human casualties. U.S. Central Command General Order 1B outlines ethical requirements for deployed service members. Commanders in Helmand have taken it a step further to underscore the need to make smart choices, Gurganus said.
“It’s not the camera,” the general said. “It’s the person behind the camera. You know, ‘I have a dead Taliban over here. Man, wouldn’t that be cool to have a picture to show my friends, but I’m going to be smart enough not to take that picture.’ That’s what I’m after.”
U.S. troops carry digital point-and-shoot cameras on most patrols, using them to collect evidence and intelligence that can be turned over to their commands later. That is still required, but the crackdown has resulted in Marines taking fewer keepsake photographs and video to share with friends and family members, several infantrymen told embedded Marine Corps Times journalists in April.
Lt. Col. David Bradney, commander of 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, out of Twentynine Palms, Calif., said the primary reason for the new restrictions is to maintain operational security. In particular, there’s no reason rank-and-file troops should be outside the wire with unauthorized helmet-mounted cameras, he said. The practice has become common, leading to dozens of web videos depicting combat footage.
“It is amazing what ends up on YouTube and flying through email and onto the Internet,” said Bradney, whose unit deployed to volatile Sangin district this spring.
CENTCOM’s general order is clear about what should not be photographed or filmed, said Lt. Col. Stewart Upton, a spokesman for Gurganus. However, the general also “has provided his commander’s intent that he expects leaders to hold themselves and their Marines to the highest of standards,” Upton said.
“Undisciplined conduct, especially here, threatens to overshadow all our good work and sacrifice, as well as have an impact on the overall mission,” Upton said.
Army Maj. Paul Haverstick, spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division in RC-East, and Army Lt. Col. Dave Connolly, spokesman for the 82nd Airborne Division in RC-South, said their guidance for troops on photography is outlined in their unit’s General Order No. 1.
Though the orders differ slightly — it’s explicitly forbidden to photograph NATO aircraft at Bagram, for instance — both ban the videotaping and photographing of improvised explosive devices and the damage caused by them, casualties, detainees and anything else deemed to compromise OPSEC.
Like the CENTCOM order, neither Army order explicitly restricts recreational photos taken outside the wire.
There also is no directive from Marine Gen. John Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, that specifically bans cameras, said Army Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul. However, individual commanders are authorized to establish additional policies that are more restrictive, he said.
It’s been said many times that the war is a self-sustaining industry that requires a constant threat overseas to keep the machine thriving at home. Looking at the millions if not billions of dollars spent on securing “national special security events” against its own citizens, it’s clear that protesters have become the threat that has allowed, in part, the warfare state to flourish on American soil.
Sound dramatic? One need only to look at the lockdown of our cities during these “events” — whether it be the NATO Summit in Chicago today, or preparations to militarize the cities of Tampa and Charlotte for the Democratic and Republican conventions this summer — to see that the constitutionally protected, American tradition of protest has become a reason for law enforcement to spend their quickly evaporating budgets each year on new toys and overtime — including the latest in surveillance, crowd control gear and communications equipment, not to mention the helicopters overhead and armed vehicles on the ground.
Just as important, this threat allows the federal government to extend its own powers under the Patriot Act onto Main Street, all in the order of counterterrorism and national security.
No one would dispute that the gathering of representatives from 50 member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), including 28 members of the military alliance in Afghanistan, warrants extra security. Indeed, we live in a world today where gunmen walk right up to U.S. members of Congress and shoot them in the head, or pack cars full of explosives on the city street. But it becomes increasingly clear, after 10 years of conventions and “special events” with little or no incident, that the specter of terrorism is being used to generate intimidating and repressive conditions, particularly against peaceful protesters, and proliferating an industry that thrives on domestic conflict and chaos.
What is this industry? Look no further than the advertisements for this year’s GovSec 2012, the annual security exposition held in Washington, D.C. In April, it promised to help “arm homeland security professionals and law enforcement professionals alike with the training and tools they need to detect, prevent and respond to terrorist attacks — from large-scale international threats to the dangers posed by homegrown extremists and lone wolves.”
According to this report, funding for the U.S. homeland security and homeland defense sector (including federal, state and local governments, and the private sector) will grow from $184 billion in 2011 to $205 billion by 2014. The market will grow from $73 billion in 2011 to $86 billion by 2014.
“The face of terrorism is constantly changing,” insisted GovSec Director Don Berey in a GovSec press release. “As a result, it is critical that those on the front lines of homeland security understand where new threats may arise and how their strategies must be adjusted to remain ever vigilant.” Adjusted, and paid for.
Thus, the endless war over there, becomes the endless war at home. Chicago is just the latest example of putting these new “strategies” to use. Talking about Chicago last week on Democracy Now!, Bill Ayers, University of Illinois professor and right-wing nemesis, explained:
There’s a mass campaign. They’re shutting Lakeshore Drive. They’re shutting the trains. They’re closing exits off the freeways. And they’re creating a kind of culture of fear. We have police officers we—who are friends of ours, we run into in coffee shops. They’ve told us that the training is focused a lot on the danger of the protesters and how you should be careful when you grab one of them, because they might have some kind of poison spike in their sleeve or something. I mean, it really is quite nuts.
At the same time, they’ve denied permits, taken permits away, given them back, been very vague about making any agreement with the protesters…we insist that this is a family-friendly, nonviolent, permitted march. And all the kind of hysteria about what’s about to happen is really brought on by the police. I don’t think anything is going to happen, except that they are creating the conditions for a police riot, once again.
Reports on Monday morning indicated that 45 people were arrested and four officers injured, including a police officer who was reportedly stabbed during a dramatic clash with protesters on Sunday night. In his remarks to reporters Sunday, Chicago Police Chief Garry McCarthy blamed the “black bloc” for rushing the police and precipitating the violence.
Go to Google and type in “H.R. 4133.” You will discover that, apart from a handful of blogs and alternative news sites, not a single mainstream medium has reported the story of a congressional bill that might well have major impact on the conduct of United States foreign policy. H.R. 4133, the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, was introduced into the House of Representatives of the 112th Congress on March 5 “to express the sense of Congress regarding the United States-Israel strategic relationship, to direct the president to submit to Congress reports on United States actions to enhance this relationship and to assist in the defense of Israel, and for other purposes.” The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) reportedly helped draft the bill, and its co-sponsors include Republicans Eric Cantor and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democrats Howard Berman and Steny Hoyer. Hoyer is the Democratic whip in the House of Representatives, where Cantor is majority leader. Ros-Lehtinen heads the Foreign Affairs Committee.
The House bill basically provides Israel with a blank check drawn on the U.S. taxpayer to maintain its “qualitative military edge” over all of its neighbors combined. It requires the White House to prepare an annual report on how that superiority is being maintained. The resolution passed on May 9 by a vote of 411–2 on a “suspension of the rules,” which is intended for non-controversial legislation requiring little debate and a quick vote.
A number of congressmen spoke on the bill, affirming their undying dedication to the cause of Israel. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas was the only one who spoke out against it, describing it as “one-sided and counterproductive foreign policy legislation. This bill’s real intent seems to be more saber-rattling against Iran and Syria.” Paul also observed that “this bill states that it is the policy of the United States to ‘reaffirm the enduring commitment of the United States to the security of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.’ However, according to our Constitution, the policy of the United States government should be to protect the security of the United States, not to guarantee the religious, ethnic, or cultural composition of a foreign country.” Paul voted “no” and was joined by only one other representative, John Dingell of Michigan, who represents a large Muslim constituency.
It is interesting to note what exactly the bill pledges the American people to do on behalf of Israel. It obligates the United States to veto resolutions critical of Israel, to provide such military support “as is necessary,” to pay for the building of an anti-missile system, to provide advanced “defense” equipment (including refueling tankers, which are offensive), to give Israel special munitions (i.e., bunker-busters, which are also offensive), to forward deploy more U.S. military equipment to Israel, to offer the Israeli air force more training and facilities in the U.S., to increase security- and advanced-technology-program cooperation, and to extend loan guarantees and expand intelligence-sharing (including highly sensitive satellite imagery). Actually, there’s even more included, and I may have missed the kitchen sink. But the objective is to provide Israel with the resources to attack Iran, if it chooses to do so, while tying the U.S. and Israel so closely together that whatever Benjamin Netanyahu does, the U.S. “will always be there,” as our president has so aptly put it.
But the scariest bit of the bill is its call for “an expanded role for Israel within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), including an enhanced presence at NATO headquarters and exercises.” If Israel becomes part of NATO, which is clearly Congress’s intent, the U.S. and other members will be obligated to come to the aid of a nation that is expanding its borders and is currently engaged in hostilities with three of its neighbors. Israel has also initiated a series of regional wars. Whether NATO membership for Israel would benefit anyone is questionable, but it is something the neocons have been seeking for years, to turn Israel’s wars into a new crusade against the Muslim world.
A few hours after Annan briefed the UN Security Council (UNSC) by videoconference from Geneva on Tuesday on his efforts to end the year-plus-long unrest in Syria, US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice reiterated Washington’s call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down.
Rice claimed that Damascus has not fully implemented any part of Annan’s six-point peace plan, noting that “Washington is focusing on a regime change in Damascus.”
Annan asked both government troops and armed groups to stop the bloodshed, and reiterated that dialog is the only solution to the unrest.
“They should think of the people, who have been caught in the middle for about fifteen months,…my appeal to those with guns, my appeal to those who have taken — I was going to say the people prisoners, because, in a way, they are frightened — is to really think of them, think of the people, think of Syria, think of the region and disarm and come to the table,” he said.
He also stated that his plan is the only chance for preventing a civil war in the country, saying, “What we have to do is to do our best and hope that the better forces in us will prevail and lead us to put down the arms and do what is right. If it fails…it will not affect only Syria, it will have an impact on the whole region. This is why we should all be so concerned for the Syrians, for Syria, and for a region that for geopolitical reasons we should all be concerned about.”
After Annan’s briefing, Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar Jaafari accused foreign countries, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, of plotting to sabotage Annan’s plan by fueling the violence.
“We need to see everybody on board. We need to see these Qataris, the Saudis, the Turkish government, as well as some other nations, stopping their incitement to violence, stopping their sponsorship of…the armed rebellion in Syria, stopping their financial contribution to cover up the needs of these armed groups and the needs of the terrorist groups, which are attacking…civilians as well as military targets in Syria” he said.
Jaafari also stated that his country was committed to the plan.
Meanwhile, the UN observers continue monitoring a ceasefire, which has officially been in effect as part of the peace plan for more than three weeks.
The first group of the observers arrived in the Syrian capital on late April 15 in line with the UNSC Resolution 2042, which had been approved a day earlier.
On April 21, the council met and unanimously approved Resolution 2043, which ratified a proposal to send a mission of 300 observers to Syria.
John Brennan, President Obama’s chief adviser on counterterrorism, has again put on public display two unfortunate facts: (1) that the White House has no clue as to how to counter terrorism; and (2) (in Brennan’s words) “the unfortunate fact that to save many innocent lives we are sometimes obliged to take lives.”
In a speech on April 30, Brennan did share one profound insight: “Countries typically don’t want foreign soldiers in their cities and towns.” His answer to that? “The precision of targeted [drone] strikes.” Does he really mean to suggest that local populations are more accepting of unmanned drones buzzing overhead and firing missiles on the push of a button by a “pilot” halfway around the world?
Beneath Brennan’s Orwellian rhetoric lies the reality that he remains unable (or unwilling) to deal with, the $64 question former White House correspondent Helen Thomas asked him repeatedly on Jan. 7, 2010, about why terrorists do the things they do.
Brennan: “Al-Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.”
Thomas: “But you haven’t explained why.”
Is it possible he still has no clue? To demonstrate how little progress Brennan has made in the way of understanding the challenge of “terrorism,” let’s look back at my commentary in early 2010 about Brennan’s vacuous non-answers to Helen Thomas. At the time, I wrote:
Thank God for Helen Thomas, the only person to show any courage at the White House press briefing after President Barack Obama gave a flaccid account of the intelligence screw-up that almost downed an airliner on Christmas Day 2009.
After Obama briefly addressed L’Affaire Abdulmutallab and wrote “must do better” on the report cards of the national security schoolboys responsible for the near catastrophe, the President turned the stage over to counter-terrorism guru John Brennan and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
It took 89-year old veteran correspondent Helen Thomas (now 91) to break through the vapid remarks about rechanneling “intelligence streams,” fixing “no-fly” lists, deploying “behavior detection officers,” and buying more body-imaging scanners.
Thomas recognized the John & Janet filibuster for what it was, as her catatonic press colleagues took their customary dictation and asked their predictable questions. Instead, Thomas posed an adult query that spotlighted the futility of government plans to counter terrorism with more high-tech gizmos and more intrusions on the liberties and privacy of the traveling public.
She asked why Abdulmutallab did what he did. Thomas: “And what is the motivation? We never hear what you find out on why.”
Brennan: “Al-Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents. … They attract individuals like Mr. Abdulmutallab and use them for these types of attacks. He was motivated by a sense of religious sort of drive. Unfortunately, al-Qaeda has perverted Islam, and has corrupted the concept of Islam, so that he’s (sic) able to attract these individuals. But al-Qaeda has the agenda of destruction and death.”
Thomas: “And you’re saying it’s because of religion?”
Brennan: “I’m saying it’s because of an al-Qaeda organization that used the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way.”
Brennan: “I think this is a — long issue, but al-Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.”
Thomas: “But you haven’t explained why.”
Neither did President Obama, nor anyone else in the U.S. political/media hierarchy. All the American public gets is the boilerplate about how al-Qaeda evildoers are perverting a religion and exploiting impressionable young men.
There is almost no discussion about why so many people in the Muslim world object to U.S. policies so strongly that they are inclined to resist violently and even resort to suicide attacks.
I had been hoping Obama would say something intelligent about what drove Abdulmutallab to do what he did, but the president uttered a few vacuous comments before sending in the clowns. This is what he said before he walked away from the podium:
It is clear that al-Qaeda increasingly seeks to recruit individuals without known terrorist affiliations … to do their bidding. … And that’s why we must communicate clearly to Muslims around the world that al-Qaeda offers nothing except a bankrupt vision of misery and death … while the United States stands with those who seek justice and progress. … That’s the vision that is far more powerful than the hatred of these violent extremists.
But why it is so hard for Muslims to “get” that message? Why can’t they end their preoccupation with dodging U.S. missiles in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Gaza long enough to reflect on how we are only trying to save them from terrorists while simultaneously demonstrating our commitment to “justice and progress”?
Does a smart fellow like Obama expect us to believe that all we need to do is “communicate clearly to Muslims” that it is al-Qaeda, not the U.S. and its allies, that brings “misery and death”? Does any informed person not know that the unprovoked U.S.-led invasion of Iraq killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and displaced 4.5 million from their homes? How is that for “misery and death”?
Rather than a failure to communicate, U.S. officials are trying to rewrite recent history, which seems to be much easier to accomplish with the Washington press corps and large segments of the American population than with the Muslim world. But why isn’t there a frank discussion by America’s leaders and media about the real motivation of Muslim anger toward the United States? Why was Helen Thomas the only journalist to raise the touchy but central question of motive?
Peeking Behind the Screen
We witnessed a similar phenomenon when the 9/11 Commission Report tiptoed into a cautious discussion of possible motives behind the 9/11 attacks. To their credit, the drafters of that report apparently went as far as their masters would allow, in gingerly introducing a major elephant into the room: “America’s policy choices have consequences. Right or wrong, it is simply a fact that American policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and American actions in Iraq are dominant staples of popular commentary across the Arab and Muslim world.” (p. 376)
When asked later about the flabby way that last sentence ended, former Rep. Lee Hamilton, vice-chair of the 9/11 Commission, explained that there had been a donnybrook over whether that paragraph could be included at all.
The drafters also squeezed in the reason given by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as to why he “masterminded” the attacks on 9/11: “By his own account, KSM’s animus toward the United States stemmed … from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.”
Would you believe that former Vice President Dick Cheney has also pointed to U.S. support for Israel as one of the “true sources of resentment”? This unique piece of honesty crept into his speech to the American Enterprise Institute on May 21, 2009.
Sure, he also trotted out the bromide that the terrorists hate “all the things that make us a force for good in the world.” But the Israel factor slipped into the speech, perhaps an inadvertent acknowledgement of the Israeli albatross adorning the neck of U.S. policy in the Middle East. Very few pundits and academicians are willing to allude to this reality, presumably out of fear for their future career prospects.
Former senior CIA officer Paul R. Pillar, now a professor at Georgetown University, is one of the few willing to refer, in his typically understated way, to “all the other things … including policies and practices that affect the likelihood that people … will be radicalized, and will try to act out the anger against us.” One has to fill in the blanks regarding what those “other things” are.
But no worries. Secretary Napolitano has a fix for this unmentionable conundrum. It’s called “counter-radicalization,” which she describes thus: “How do we identify someone before they become radicalized to the point where they’re ready to blow themselves up with others on a plane? And how do we communicate better American values and so forth … around the globe?”
Better communication. That’s the ticket.
Hypocrisy and Double Talk
“The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.”
– James Madison
Drones — unmanned aerial vehicles — come in all shapes and sizes, from nano-sized drones as small as a grain of sand that can do everything from conducting surveillance to detonating explosive charges, to massive “hunter/killer” Predator warships that unleash firepower from on high. Once used exclusively by the military to carry out aerial surveillance and attacks on enemy insurgents abroad, these remotely piloted, semi-autonomous robots have now been authorized by Congress and President Obama for widespread use in American airspace. The military empire is coming home to roost.
While there are at least 63 active drone sites around the U.S., the Obama administration is calling for drone technology to be integrated into the national airspace by 2015. By 2020, just eight short years from now, it is estimated that at least 30,000 of these drones will be crisscrossing the nation’s skies, serving a wide range of functions, both public and private, governmental and corporate. The end result, however, will be the same: we will find ourselves operating under a new paradigm marked by round-the-clock surveillance and with little hope of real privacy, a paradigm foisted upon us and from which there will be no escape, short of living in a cave, far removed from the reach of modern technology. Caves, by the way, are rather scarce.
While the legislative vehicle for this rapid transition into a surveillance state came in the guise of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill, passed by Congress and signed into law by Obama in February 2012, it was steamrollered into place after intense corporate lobbying by drone makers and potential customers hoping to capitalize on the $12 billion–$30 billion per year industry.
As with every egregious government policy, there are politicians who stand to make money off the implementation of drones in America. Fifty-five members of the House of Representatives are part of the drone caucus, which works to expand the use of drones domestically. So far this election season, 15 members of the caucus have received a total of $68,500 from General Atomics PAC, the political action committee of the drone manufacturer General Atomics. There is also a lobbying group with 507 corporate members spread across 55 countries, the Association for Unmanned Vehicles International, which is responsible for the language in the FAA bill that mandates the accelerated implementation of drone technology. Thus, our so-called representatives and the corporations which support them will make a great deal of money off the decimation of Americans’ privacy rights.
While the threat these drones pose to privacy is unprecedented, they are being unleashed on the American populace before any real protocols to protect our privacy rights have been put in place and in such a way as to completely alter the landscape of our lives and our freedoms. We are truly entering a new era. Once the realm of science fiction and dystopian literature, the all-seeing surveillance state, powered by the latest and greatest in robot technology, is the reality with which we must now contend.
those 2/3 of Afghans – something like 20 million people – face PTSD or other mental disorders with only FORTY-TWO psychiatrists and psychologists in the entire country.
Oh, but you’re forgetting, naive people. American lives are a lot more important than any other life on Earth. Afghan, Pakistani, Yemeni, Iraqi lives? Pfft, whatever.
Their killing power is immense and the surveillance possibilities are endless. Perhaps it’s no wonder that the awesome potential of unmanned aerial vehicles is now being so energetically explored – from the battlefields of Afghanistan to the London Olympics.
The world’s first glimpse of a killer drone in action was over the English Channel: a Royal Navy patrol boat reported “a bright horizontal flame” in the sky. The device emitting the flame had stubby wings and was shaped like a rocket, and was travelling from the French coast at more than 200mph. Too small and too fast to be intercepted, it arrived in England’s Home Counties without warning; as it plunged earthwards the low drone of the motor cut out and there were three seconds of silence before the massive explosion. Where it exploded, the human beings at the epicentre simply disappeared, vaporised.
Of course, for all the similarities, this was not a Reaper or a Predator, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) used in action by British and US militaries today. The most glaring difference is that modern drones don’t self-destruct, except by mistake. This was the Vergeltungswaffe, the V-1, known affectionately to its German makers as the Maybug and to its terrorised British targets as the “doodlebug”. The Nazis had experimented with making it radio-controlled, but in the end its navigation system was crude. Yet this PAC (pilotless aircraft) – Hitler’s last, desperate throw of the dice as the Allies swarmed towards Berlin – marked the start of a new era in warfare as decisively as did “Fat Man” and “Little Boy”, which plummeted towards Hiroshima and Nagasaki a few months later.
The Predator and the Reaper and their rivals and relatives, some developed at Cranfield Aerospace (“Innovation at its Best”) in Bedford, are crucially different from the Maybug because they target their victims so precisely. The 186 men, women and children vaporised by a doodlebug in the New Cross branch of Woolworth’s in London’s East End one November Saturday in 1944 had no idea what was coming their way, and no reason to feel more than normally apprehensive. By contrast, many of the intended victims of today’s drones experience the very specific fear of being killed by them. In US Department of Defense videos with titles such as “UAV Kills Heavily Armed Criminals” and posted on YouTube, the visceral terror of the turbaned figures about to die is palpable. (Drone pilots call the moment of the kill a “bug splat” because of the way it looks on their screens.)
For what the US authorities call “personality strikes” – high-value targets – that specific fear can last for months, even years. Friends and relatives of the Islamist militant and US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki had such strong grounds to fear his assassination by drone that the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in August 2010 on behalf of his father, Nasser al-Awlaki, to try to stop it happening. The judge eventually dismissed the case, arguing that Nasser al-Awlaki would have no grounds to pursue it unless and until his son was actually killed. And so it came to pass: on 30 September 2011 in southern Yemen, the bearded American became one of at least four US citizens, to date, to be deliberately assassinated by US drones.
Nearly 70 years after the doodlebug, the pilotless aircraft was now fully out of the arms dealers’ closet. The cruel and extra-legal targeting of al-Awlaki for liquidation over a number of years, the futile attempt to get the American courts to stop it, and then the coup de grâce in the deserts of Yemen removed the last shreds of official deniability from the killer drone programme – and nobody gave a damn. As one White House official told Rolling Stone magazine, “If Anwar al-Awlaki is your poster boy for why we shouldn’t do drone strikes, good fucking luck.”
As a basic idea it is childishly simple, and many of us once played with them: a miniature plane you can pilot remotely. The only real difference is the sophistication of the vehicle itself, and of the navigation and piloting systems.
Drones in service or development today range from a giant with a 400ft wingspan, intended to cruise non-stop for five years, to tiny microdrones powered by miniature batteries; some are the size of a Boeing 727, while the Predators and Reapers in use in Afghanistan are comparable in size to model aircraft. But whatever their shape or size, all of them are designed for one of two purposes: spying or killing.
Even some very sophisticated modern drones look like toys, being scarcely bigger and no less simple and clumsy to launch. Like the toys we played with, you can build a drone at home. One of the people who recently did so was Francis Fukuyama, the Japanese-American political scientist most famous for coining the phrase “The End of History” to describe the global situation after the collapse of the Soviet Union. “For the past couple of months I have been building myself a surveillance drone,” he wrote recently in the Financial Times. There is a funny video that can be tracked down online of him flying it in Hoover Park, Palo Alto, California, near where he teaches at Stanford University.
The drone he built is a geek’s delight, “a remotely controlled quadcopter”, as he explained, “a small helicopter with four rotor blades that looks like a flying X, with an onboard video camera that sends a live feed back to my laptop base station … In future I plan to equip the aircraft with an autopilot system that will allow it to fly from one GPS-specified location to another without my having to pilot it.”
Enraptured by the technology, Fukuyama worries about what a world full of the things will feel like. “A world in which people can be routinely and anonymously targeted by unseen enemies,” he writes, “is not pleasant to contemplate.” For all the technological refinements, the device in Fukuyama’s video, hovering uncertainly over Hoover Park’s balding turf and eyeing speculatively both the senior Stanford fellow with the joystick, gazing skywards, and the odd dog-walker, does not seem a million miles from the sort of thing you used to be able to buy in a box at the local toy shop and stick together with UHU. And it’s that – the conceptual simplicity yoked to ever-increasing technological refinement – that has propelled the drone into headlines across the world in the past year. It is at once a fiendishly efficient killing machine, the ultimate spy weapon, and a tool of potentially vast utility to police forces, farmers, estate agents and journalists.
Peter Bergen, the Director of National Security Studies at the Democratic-Party-supportive New America Foundation, has a long Op-Ed in The New York Times today glorifying President Obama as a valiant and steadfast “warrior President”; it begins this way:
THE president who won the Nobel Peace Prize less than nine months after his inauguration has turned out to be one of the most militarily aggressive American leaders in decades.
Just ponder that: not only the Democratic Party, but also its progressive faction, is wildly enamored of “one of the most militarily aggressive American leaders in decades.” That’s quite revealing on multiple levels. Bergen does note that irony: he recalls that Obama used his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech to defend the justifications for war and points out: “if those on the left were listening, they didn’t seem to care.” He adds that “the left, which had loudly condemned George W. Bush for waterboarding and due process violations at Guantánamo, was relatively quiet when the Obama administration, acting as judge and executioner, ordered more than 250 drone strikes in Pakistan since 2009, during which at least 1,400 lives were lost.”
To explain the behavior of “the left,” Bergen offers this theory: “From both the right and left, there has been a continuing, dramaticcognitive disconnect between Mr. Obama’s record and the public perception of his leadership: despite his demonstrated willingness to use force, neither side regards him as the warrior president he is.” In other words, progressives are slavishly supportive of “one of the most militarily aggressive American leaders in decades” because they have deluded themselves into denying this reality and continue to pretend he’s some sort of anti-war figure.
That’s not unreasonable speculation, but I ultimately don’t believe that’s true. Leaving aside Bergen’s over-generalization — some factions on “the left” have been quite vocal in condemning Obama’s actions in these areas — most Democrats are perfectly aware of Obama’s military aggression. They don’t support him despite that, but rather, that’s one of the things they love about him. After years of being mocked by the Right as Terrorist-coddling weaklings, Obama — strutting around touting his own strength — lets them feel strong and powerful in exactly the way that Bush and Cheney’s swaggering let conservatives prance around as tough-guy, play-acting warriors. Rather than ignore this aggression, Democratic think tanks point with beaming pride to the corpses piled up by the Democratic Commander-in-Chief to argue that he’s been such a resounding foreign policy “success,” while Democratic punditscelebrate and defend the political value of his majestic kills.
Yesterday on his MSNBC morning show, Chris Hayes conducted an excellent, two-part discussion of Obama’s escalated civilian-killing drone attacks, with a heavy emphasis on the innocent people, including numerous children, who have been killed. He showed a harrowing video clip of a Yemeni man’s anguish as he described the pregnant women and children killed by Obama’s 2009 cluster bomb strike; featured the U.S. drone killing of 16-year-old American citizen Abdulrahman Awlaki in Yemen; and interviewed human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, who described the 16-year-old Pakistani boy he met at a meeting to discuss civilian drone deaths and who, a mere 3 days later, had his own life ended by an American drone.
Later that day, Hayes tweeted this: “A bit taken aback by the ugliness that drone conversation seems to bring out in some people.” What he meant was the avalanche of angry Twitter attacks from steadfast Obama loyalists who gleefully defended the drone program, mocked concerns over civilian deaths, and insisted that he should not be covering such matters because they may harm Obama in an election year (of course, it’s not only the President’s followers, but, as Hayes noted, the President himself who is quite adept at finding humor in his drone attacks).
Side Note: For awhile the Golden Platform will be a little slow since I’ve got myself quite preoccupied with things outside of the cyber world. My preoccupations include (as I mentioned in an earlier post) reading Isadora Duncan’s autobiography My Life, also I’m involved in an ongoing debate about Geoengineering and Weather Warfare with a skeptic ALSO I’m writing an essay that’ll appear on this blog eventually about how the US surveillance state and police state is on a precipice in which it’ll be transforming itself from it’s current semi-clandestine state to a more overt state soon. So, yes to my readers - I apologize for my absence.
April 27 (Reuters) - A nearly three-year-long investigation by Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats is expected to find there is little evidence the harsh “enhanced interrogation techniques” the CIA used on high-value prisoners produced counter-terrorism breakthroughs.
People familiar with the inquiry said committee investigators, who have been poring over records from the administration of President George W. Bush, believe they do not substantiate claims by some Bush supporters that the harsh interrogations led to counter-terrorism coups.
The backers of such techniques, which include “water-boarding,” sleep deprivation and other practices critics call torture, maintain they have led to the disruption of major terror plots and the capture of al Qaeda leaders.
One official said investigators found “no evidence” such enhanced interrogations played “any significant role” in the years-long intelligence operations which led to the discovery and killing of Osama bin Laden last May by U.S. Navy SEALs.
President Barack Obama and his aides have largely sought to avoid revisiting Bush administration controversies. But the debate over the effectiveness of enhanced interrogations, which human rights advocates condemn as torture, is resurfacing, in part thanks to a new book by a former top CIA official.
In the book, “Hard Measures,” due to be published on Monday, April 30, the former chief of CIA clandestine operations Jose Rodriguez defends the use of interrogation practices including water-boarding, which involves pouring water on a subject’s face, which is covered with a cloth, to simulate drowning.
"We made some al-Qaeda terrorists with American blood on their hands uncomfortable for a few days," Rodriguez says in an interview with CBS News’ "60 Minutes" that will air on Sunday, April 29. "I am very secure in what we did and am very confident that what we did saved American lives."
For nearly three years, the Senate intelligence committee’s majority Democrats have been conducting what is described as the first systematic investigation of the effectiveness of such extreme interrogation techniques.
NO SCIENTIFIC ASSESSMENT
The CIA gave the committee access to millions of pages of written records charting daily operations of the interrogation program, including graphic descriptions of how and when controversial techniques were employed.
Sources agreed to discuss the matter on condition of anonymity because the report has not been finalized.
The committee members’ objective is to conduct a methodical assessment of whether enhanced interrogation techniques led to genuine intelligence breakthroughs or whether they produced more false leads than good ones.
U.S. intelligence officials have acknowledged that while the harshest elements of the interrogation program, including water-boarding and other tactics which cause severe physical stress, were in use, the CIA never carried out a scientific assessment of the program’s effectiveness.
The Bush Administration only used water-boarding on three captured suspects. One of them was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Other coercive techniques included sleep deprivation, making people crouch or stretch in stressful positions and slamming detainees against a flexible wall.
The CIA started backing away from such techniques in 2004. Obama banned them shortly after taking office.
One source cautioned there could still be lengthy delays before any information or conclusions from the Senate committee’s report are made public.
One reason the inquiry has taken so long is that in 2009, committee Republicans withdrew their participation, saying the panel would be unable to interview witnesses to ensure documentary material was reported in appropriate context due to ongoing criminal investigations.
People familiar with the inquiry said it consisted of as much as 2,000 pages in narrative accounts of how the CIA interrogation program worked, including specific case histories in which enhanced interrogation tactics were used.
'PROCEDURES' UNJUSTIFIED: FEINSTEIN
The Intelligence committee has not issued any official statements about what its inquiry has found or when it expects to wrap up. But committee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein has made relatively strong statements about the lack of evidence that enhanced interrogations played any material role in generating information leading to bin Laden’s killing.
Only days after the commando raid in which bin Laden was killed, Feinstein told journalists: “I happen to know a good deal about how those interrogations were conducted, and, in my view, nothing justifies the kind of procedures that were used.”
Current and former U.S. officials have said one key source for information about the existence of the al Qaeda “courier” who ultimately led U.S. intelligence to bin Laden was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
KSM, as he was known to U.S. officials, was subjected to water-boarding 183 times, the U.S. government has acknowledged.
Officials said, however, that it was not until some time after he was water-boarded that KSM told interrogators about the courier’s existence. Therefore a direct link between the physically coercive techniques and critical information is unproven, Bush administration critics say.
Supporters of the CIA program, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, have portrayed it as a necessary, if distasteful, step that may have stopped extremist plots and saved lives.
The purpose of using physically coercive methods was not directly to extract information about imminent plots but rather to put suspects in a frame of mind to cooperate with interrogators during future questioning, they say.
Critics also say that still-classified records are likely to demonstrate that harsh interrogation techniques produced far more information that proved false than true.
Some U.S. counter-terrorism officials have acknowledged that in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks, U.S. agencies were overwhelmed with bogus tips about possible plots and attacks. (Editing by Todd Eastham)
The Pentagon stated on Wednesday that the top U.S. military officer has ordered a review of training material after a course for officers was found to consider that the United States is at war with Islam, Reuters reported.
According to the agency, “Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey sent a letter on Tuesday to leaders of the Army and other services, along with regional commanders and officials heading the National Guard, ordering a review of relevant training and education material across the military.”
Dempsy said that “this review will ensure our professional education programs exhibit the cultural sensitivity, respect for religion and intellectual balance that we should expect in our academic institutions.”
The review was prompted by a soldier who sent a complaint after having completed an elective course entitled “Perspectives on Islam and Islamite Radicalism” at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia.
The course included an assertion “that the United States is at war with Islam and we ought to just recognize that we are war with Islam,” Pentagon spokesman, Captain John Kirby was quoted as saying.
Kirby added before reporters that “that’s not at all what we believe to be the case. We’re at war against terrorism, specifically Al-Qaeda, who has a warped view of the Islamic faith.”
Reuters quoted him as saying that “US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also felt deep concern over the discovery, which follows a string of incidents that, more than 10 years after the Afghan war began, have exposed a persisting gap between people in the conservative Muslim nation and the Western soldiers fighting Islamist militants there.”
Medea Benjamin: Drones kill innocent civilians and antagonize whole populations.
A major case in the British High Court has revealed fresh evidence of civilian deaths during a notorious CIA drone strike in Pakistan last year.
Sworn witness testimonies reveal in graphic detail how the village of Datta Khel burned for hours after the attack. Many of the dozens killed had to be buried in pieces.
Legal proceedings were begun in London recently against British Foreign Secretary William Hague, over possible British complicity in CIA drone strikes.
Britain’s GCHQ – its secret monitoring and surveillance agency – is reported to have provided ‘locational evidence’ to US authorities for use in drone strikes, a move which is reportedly illegal in the United Kingdom.
The High Court case focuses in particular on a CIA drone strike in March 2011 which killed up to 53 people.
Sworn affidavits presented in court and seen by the Bureau offer extensive new details of a strike the CIA still apparently claims ‘killed no non-combatants’.
‘We were in the middle of our discussion when the missile hit and I was thrown about 24 feet from where I was sitting. I was knocked unconscious and when I awoke I saw many individuals who were dead or injured,’ he says in his affidavit.
Most of those who died in Datta Khel village that day were civilians. The Bureau has so far identified by name 24 of those killed, whilst Associated Press recently reported that it has the names of 42 civilians who died that day.
Pakistan’s president, prime minister and army chief all condemned the Datta Khel attack. A recent Bureau investigation with the Sunday Times quoted Brigadier Abdullah Dogar, who commanded Pakistani military forces in the area at the time.
We in the Pakistan military knew about the meeting, we’d got the request ten days earlier. It was held in broad daylight, people were sitting out in Nomada bus depot when the missile strikes came. Maybe there were one or two Taliban at that Jirga – they have their people attending – but does that justify a drone strike which kills 42 mostly innocent people?
Yet the US intelligence community has consistently denied that any civilians died.
“We’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.” – President Barack Obama, Fort Bragg, N.C., December 2011
“You will leave with great pride – lasting pride.” – Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to U.S. troops, December 2011
I’ve written repeatedly about the terrible dictatorship and lasting sectarian violenceWashington left in Iraq after the troop withdrawal of December 2011. Contrary to the lies of these indecent politicians, the enduring effects of the illegal U.S. war in Iraq are still causing havoc and bloodshed throughout the country. Iraq is neither secure, nor is it a democracy as was promised by warmongers in Washington.
A new Congressional Research Service report takes a look at post-withdrawal Iraq and at one point lists the most high-profile incidents of sectarian violence:
On February 7, 2012, the AQ-I affiliate Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for two of the deadliest attacks on Shiites since the U.S. withdrawal—on January 5 and January 14, 2012, which killed 78 and 53 Shiite pilgrims, respectively. In one of the most complex attacks in recent months, on February 23, 2012, bombings in 12 Iraqi cities killed over 50 persons; based on the method and scope of the attacks, Iraqi observers attributed the attacks to AQ-I. AQ-I claimed responsibility for a broad series of attacks—encompassing six cities—on March 20, 2012; over 40 persons were killed. Another spate of attacks took place in Baghdad and Kirkuk on April 19, 2012, killing about 36 persons.
As for the record of the government (other than what’s included in the above hyperlinks), the report had this to say:
The State Department’s report on human rights for 2010 released April 8, 2011, largely repeated the previous year’s characterizations of Iraq’s human rights record as follows: “Extremist violence, coupled with weak government performance in upholding the rule of law, resulted in widespread and severe human rights abuses.” The State Department report cited a wide range of human rights problems committed by Iraqi government security and law enforcement personnel, including some unlawful killings; torture and other cruel punishments; poor conditions in prison facilities; denial of fair public trials; arbitrary arrest; arbitrary interference with privacy and home; limits on freedoms of speech, assembly, and association due to sectarianism and extremist threats; lack of protection of stateless persons; wide scale governmental corruption; human trafficking; and limited exercise of labor rights.
All this, as America continues to give money and weapons to the Maliki government. What exactly do U.S. troops have to be proud about?