U.S. drones out of Africa, the Middle East, Asia and everywhere! February 28, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in War.
Tags: answer coalition, drone missiles, drones, political protest, roger hollander
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Be part of the action on Saturday, April 13 at the White House
U.S. drones out of Africa, the Middle East, Asia and everywhere!
National and local organizations are coming together for a major protest on April 13 at the White House to Say NO to U.S. Drone attacks in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and everywhere.
The Coalition sponsoring the demonstration is growing rapidly as new organizations join the effort.
ANSWER Coalition; Cynthia McKinney, former Congressperson; Akbar Muhammad, International Rep. of Nation of Islam; Revival of Pan Africanism Forum; African Diaspora for Democracy and Development; CRI-Panafricain; Democratic Union of Gambian Activists – D.C.; Ramsey Clark, former U.S. attorney general; Veterans for Peace; Col. Ann Wright; CODEPINK; CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations); CAIR-MD; Nisa Muhammad, writer, Final Call newspaper; Jared Ball, radio host, WPFW (Pacifica); Rev. Graylan Hagler, Senior Minister, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ; Imam Mahdi Bray, Freedom Coalition; Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director, Partnership for Civil Justice Fund; Zaki Baruti, Universal African Peoples Organization; American-Iranian Friendship Committee (AIFC); Peta Lindsay, Party for Socialism and Liberation; Haiti Liberte; Political Education and Action Committee-Howard University; Students for Justice in Palestine-Temple U.; Conflict Free Campus Initiative–Temple U.; and many more.
Join the rising tide of support for the April 13 demonstration and start mobilizing from your area to be at the White House on as we take our message straight to the war makers!
Buses, vans and car caravans will be coming from New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and other cities.
As U.S. forces have begun to deploy to Niger to expand the deadly drone warfare program, now more than ever the importance of the April 13 demonstration is becoming clear. 100 armed U.S. troops are heading to Niger to set up a drone base aimed at assisting the French-led intervention in that country. This is on top of the 4,000 troops currently training in various war-fighting tactics to serve as a fast-response and “training” force for Africom. On every level and in a number of countries, the United States is expanding its drone program and deepening its military presence on the African continent.
On April 13 at the White House a growing coalition of groups and individuals will be coming together to say NO to this expansion of imperialist military power with drones at the tip of the spear. Endless war and hostility to the peoples of Africa and around the world is a policy that is totally contrary to the interests of the broad mass of American people. On the eve of the massive budget cuts of the so-called sequester, and despite all the hype about “Pentagon cuts,” the machine of war still rolls on in the African continent and across the world, as working and poor people in America will be made to suffer more hardship.
The message from the Obama administration, Congress, the Pentagon and the entire elite establishment is more war, less for people’s needs, here and across the globe. Add your name to the growing list of endorsers. Organize from your cities and towns to be in Washington, D.C., on April 13 to demand U.S. Imperialist Drones Out of Africa and Everywhere!
Obama Inherits and Normalizes the Arrogance and Impunity of Nixon, Reagan and Both Bushes February 26, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Democracy, War.
Tags: bruce a. dixon, constitution, democracy, drones, george h.w. bush, George W. Bush, history, kill list, nixon, presidents, reagan, roger hollander, rule of law, terror tuesday, war president
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When Republican presidents Nixon, Reagan and Bush waged secret wars based on mountains of lies and deceit, they were nearly impeached, but in each case Democrats in control of Congress could not pull the trigger. As a result, the Obama White House basks in a presidential culture of murderous arrogance and lawless impunity.
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Bruce A. Dixon
Back in the early seventies, when Richard Nixon secretly bombed Laos and Cambodia, two countries the US was not at war with, and concealed it from Congress and the public, the crime was serious enough to be the fourth article of impeachment drawn up against him. A dozen years later, when Ronald Reagan defied Congress to wage a bloody contra war in Central America funded by running drugs into the US from Central America and selling arms to Iran, Reagan only avoided impeachment by pretending he just couldn’t remember much of it any more and letting his henchmen take the fall. George W. Bush too was widely reviled as a murderous fraud for his lies about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and more, with millions of Americans and millions more around the world protesting his invasion of Iraq before it even began.
But in the end, none of these Republican warmongers were impeached while in office or indicted afterward because Democrats, in control of Congress every time, could never bring themselves to pull the trigger. So Tricky Dick Nixon stepped down. Reagan doddered off to the ranch, and Dubya’s at home right now watching American Idol. Barack Hussein Obama may be a different color and from a different party but he inherits their arrogance, their immunity, their impunity.
This White House openly brags about its “Terror Tuesday” meetings in which US special forces and drones have been dispatched to and from dozens of undisclosed countries to kidnap, torture or murder thousands of people, in the case of drone strikes mostly innocents, to the cheers and jokes of cruise missile liberals like Ed Schulz and Bill Maher, who calls Obama the “black ninja president.” The potent symbol of a black face in that high place has normalized the conduct of lawless aggressive war and secretive state murder among parts of the population which had no trouble calling a crime a crime when committed by a white Republican. In that sense, the First Black President is a little bit unlike, but mostly very much like his nefarious predecessors.
It’s worth noting that in the debates between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, kill-at-will drone wars, the militarization of Africa, Wall Street’s immunity from prosecution, and the push to privatize and charterize public education were points upon which both candidates were in complete agreement. But if Mitt Romney were president today wouldn’t many more of us be in the street about these things? Black apologists, as Davey D notes, try to shut criticism of this president down in the misguided name of black unity, and some white activists stay home because they don’t want to be seen as racist whites hating on the black president.
A Facebook friend in Atlanta remarked last week that whenever George Bush was rumored coming to town, his inbox would be full of emergency mobilization notices. But with the current War President about to visit, he said, it looked like his only correspondent might be the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
It’s going to be a long, long four more years.
For Black Agenda Radio, I‘m Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him via this site’s contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.
Open Letter to ACLU Director Anthony Romero February 23, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Occupy Wall Street Movement.
Tags: #occupy movement, aaron swartzs, aclu, al-jazeera, Anthony Romero, barrett brown, bracley manning, civil liberties, democracy, drones, fbi infiltartion, first amendment, gary webb, Homeland Security, josh mitteldorf, julian assange, protest, roger hollander, torture
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OpEdNews Op Eds 2/22/2013 at 16:59:12
Dear Mr Romero-
US attack kills 5 Afghan kids May 8, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Media, War.
Tags: Afghanistan War, Afghanistan, roger hollander, civilian casualties, collateral damage, glenn greenwald, corporate media, drone missiles, muslim terrorists, drones, yemen, yemen airstrikes
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The way in which the U.S. media ignores such events speaks volumes about how we perceive them
Yesterday, I noted several reports from Afghanistan that as many as 20 civilians were killed by two NATO airstrikes, including a mother and her five children. Today, the U.S. confirmed at least some of those claims, acknowledging and apologizing for its responsibility for the death of that family:
The American military claimed responsibility and expressed regret for an airstrike that mistakenly killed six members of a family in southwestern Afghanistan, Afghan and American military officials confirmed Monday.
The attack, which took place Friday night, was first revealed by the governor of Helmand Province, Muhammad Gulab Mangal, on Monday. His spokesman, Dawoud Ahmadi, said that after an investigation they had determined that a family home in the Sangin district had been attacked by mistake in the American airstrike, which was called in to respond to a Taliban attack. . . . The victims were the family’s mother and five of her children, three girls and two boys, according to Afghan officials.
(1) To the extent these type of incidents are discussed at all — and in American establishment media venues, they are most typically ignored — there are certain unbending rules that must be observed in order to retain Seriousness credentials. No matter how many times the U.S. kills innocent people in the world, it never reflects on our national character or that of our leaders. Indeed, none of these incidents convey any meaning at all. They are mere accidents, quasi-acts of nature which contain no moral information (in fact, the NYT article on these civilian deaths, out of nowhere, weirdly mentioned that “in northern Afghanistan, 23 members of a wedding celebration drowned in severe flash flooding” — as though that’s comparable to the U.S.’s dropping bombs on innocent people). We’ve all been trained, like good little soldiers, that the phrase “collateral damage” cleanses and justifies this and washes it all way: yes, it’s quite terrible, but innocent people die in wars; that’s just how it is. It’s all grounded in America’s central religious belief that the country has the right to commit violence anywhere in the world, at any time, for any cause.
At some point — and more than a decade would certainly qualify — the act of continuously killing innocent people, countless children, in the Muslim world most certainly does reflect upon, and even alters, the moral character of a country, especially its leaders. You can’t just spend year after year piling up the corpses of children and credibly insist that it has no bearing on who you are. That’s particularly true when, as is the case in Afghanistan, the cause of the war is so vague as to be virtually unknowable. It’s woefully inadequate to reflexively dismiss every one of these incidents as the regrettable but meaningless by-product of our national prerogative. But to maintain mainstream credibility, that is exactly how one must speak of our national actions even in these most egregious cases. To suggest any moral culpability, or to argue that continuously killing children in a country we’re occupying is morally indefensible, is a self-marginalizing act, whereby one reveals oneself to be a shrill and unSerious critic, probably even a pacifist. Serious commentators, by definition, recognize and accept that this is merely the inevitable outcome of America’s supreme imperial right, note (at most) some passing regret, and then move on.
(2) Yesterday — a week after it leaked that it was escalating its drone strikes in Yemen — the Obama administration claimed that the CIA last month disrupted a scary plot originating in Yemen to explode an American civilian jet “using a more sophisticated version of the underwear bomb deployed unsuccessfully in 2009.” American media outlets — especially its cable news networks — erupted with their predictable mix of obsessive hysteria, excitement and moral outrage. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer last night devoted the bulk of his show to this plot, parading the standard cast of characters — former Bush Homeland Security adviser (and terrorist advocate) Fran Townsend and its “national security analyst” Peter Bergen — to put on their Serious and Concerned faces, recite from the U.S. Government script, and analyze all the profound implications. CNN even hauled out Rep. Peter King to warn that this shows a “new level” of Terror threats from Yemen. CNN’s fixation on this plot continued into this morning.
Needless to say, the fact that the U.S. has spent years and years killing innocent adults and children in that part of the world — including repeatedly in Yemen — was never once mentioned, even though it obviously is a major factor for why at least some people in that country support these kinds of plots. Those facts are not permitted to be heard. Discussions of causation — why would someone want to attack a U.S. airliner? – is an absolute taboo, beyond noting that the people responsible are primitive and hateful religious fanatics. Instead, it is a simple morality play reinforced over and over: Americans are innocently minding their own business — trying to enjoy our Freedoms — and are being disgustingly targeted with horrific violence by these heinous Muslim Terrorists whom we must crush (naturally, the solution to the problem that there is significant anti-American animosity in Yemen is to drop even more bombs on them, which will certainly fix this problem).
Indeed, on the very same day that CNN and the other cable news networks devoted so much coverage to a failed, un-serious attempt to bring violence to the U.S. — one that never moved beyond the early planning stages and “never posed a threat to public safety” — it was revealed that the U.S. just killed multiple civilians, including a family of 5 children, in Afghanistan. But that got no mention. That event simply does not exist in the world of CNN and its viewers (I’d be shocked if it has been mentioned on MSNBC or Fox either). Nascent, failed non-threats directed at the U.S. merit all-hands-on-deck, five-alarm media coverage, but the actual extinguishing of the lives of children by the U.S. is steadfastly ignored (even though the latter is so causally related to the former).
This is the message sent over and over by the U.S. media: we are the victims of heinous, frightening violence; our government must do more, must bomb more, but surveil more, to Keep Us Safe; we do nothing similar to this kind of violence because we are Good and Civilized. This is how our Objective, Viewpoint-Free journalistic outlets continuously propagandize: by fixating on the violence done by others while justifying — or, more often, ignoring — the more far-reaching and substantial violence perpetrated by the U.S.
(3) If one of the relatives of the children just killed in Afghanistan decided to attack the U.S. — or if one of the people involved in this Yemen-originating plot were a relative of one of the dozens of civilians killed by Obama’s 2009 cluster bomb strike — what would they be called by the U.S. media? Terrorists. Primitive, irrational, religious fanatics beyond human decency.
* * * * *
This point cannot be emphasized enough.
Those weak losers who care about “law” February 24, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Foreign Policy, War, War on Terror.
Tags: assassinations, congressional approval, constitution, david rhode, drones, foreign policy, glenn greenwald, lawrence o'donnell, mitt romney, Obama, presidential power, roger hollander, rule of law, stephanie cutter, terrorists, war, war on terror
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Friday, Feb 24, 2012 6:59 AM 17:59:03 EST
A top Obama campaign aide uses the language of Bush/Rove/Palin to suggest law is proof of weakness
President Barack Obama speaks during a fundraiser at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Fla., Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (Credit: AP)
(updated bel0w – Update II)
Everyone Strong and Serious knows that only weak losers who are unqualified to be Commander-in-Chief would care about whether they are allowed under the obsolete, leftist doctrine known as “law” to attack another country or crush the Terrorists. We first learned this from George Bush, who, in a 2004 campaign speech, mocked John Kerry as a law-obsessed weakling this way:
Some are skeptical that the war on terror is really a war at all. My opponent said, and I quote, “The war on terror is less of a military operation, and far more of an intelligence-gathering law enforcement operation.” I disagree—strongly disagree . . . After the chaos and carnage of September the 11th, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers. With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States of America, and war is what they got.
We then learned this important lesson from Karl Rove, who in 2005 explained: “Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers. Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war.”
This same lesson was then taught to us by Sarah Palin, who derided Barack Obama in her 2008 RNC acceptance speech as a law-obsessed Terrorist-coddler: “Al Qaida terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America, and he’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights.”
And then we heard the same thing on Wednesday night from Stephanie Cutter, President Obama’s Deputy Campaign Manager. She appeared on MSNBC to discuss that night’s GOP debate with Lawrence O’Donnell, who subjected her to the very hard-hitting adversarial journalism for which that cable channel has become so justifiably admired when it comes to reporting on the Obama administration. After boldly challenging Cutter to explain what President Obama’s large polling lead tells us about the GOP challengers (it shows the Nation adores the leader and hates the GOP), he then invited her to act as “truth squad” and identify the biggest lie told about the President during the GOP debate. This is how she responded:
The most egregious falsehood would be the President’s position on Iran, whether it’s Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum, attacking the President for not being tough enough on Iran. Ask any foreign policy expert out there, we have the toughest sanctions in place today than we’ve had in decades thanks to this President. . . . Now look at Mitt Romney. What he didn’t say on the stage tonight is that just four years ago, when asked the same question on Iran, he said he’d have to check with his lawyers. That does not make a Commander-in-Chief, somebody who has to check with his lawyers.
She went on to mock him for saying he would not invade Pakistan without its consent to get bin Laden. On “checking with his lawyers,” what Romney actually said was this, when asked whether he would attack Iran without first getting Congressional approval:
The other topic that sparked fireworks was a provocative, albeit hypothetical, point of constitutional interpretation – would the U.S. president need Congress’ permission before launching an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities?
Responding first, Romney said as president, “you sit down with your attorneys” to determine whether such authorization is needed, but he said, “Obviously, the president of the United States has to do what’s in the best interest of the United States to protect us against a potential threat.”
So Romney said that before attacking Iran, he’d want to know if he had the legal authority to do so without Congress, but then strongly suggested that he’d probably do it anyway. As Stephanie Cutter explained, only a weak loser would care whether he actually has the legal authority under the Constitution to start a war without Congressional approval (President Obama showed the Tough Commander-in-Chief Stuff of which he’s made when he prosecuted a war even once Congress affirmatively refused to authorize it).
Of course, Candidate Obama, in 2007, when asked as part of an executive power questionnaire if a President could attack Iran without Congress, consulted with a long list of lawyers to prepare his response and, concerning that specific issue, said: “the President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” During the campaign, candidate Obama vowed: “No more ignoring the law when it’s inconvenient. That is not who we are. . . . We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers.” Hillary Clinton co-sponsored legislation to ban President Bush from attacking Iran without the approval of Congress. Joe Biden actually threatened to impeach Bush if he attacked Iran without Congressional approval.
But that was then, before they were in charge of the war-making machine. Now, Mitt Romney’s tepid suggestion that a President should probably first ascertain his Constitutional powers before attacking another country is, according to the Obama campaign, proof of his losers-ish weakness: “That does not make a Commander-in-Chief, somebody who has to check with his lawyers,” decreed Cutter, following in the illustrious footsteps of George W. Bush, Karl Rove and Sarah Palin (it’s amazingly common how Democrats defend Obama’s foreign policy record by tauntingly pointing to the pile of corpses he’s produced and the punishing sanctions he’s imposed, and by fully embracing the long-standing GOP metrics of “toughness” and arguing that Obama exudes them even more than the GOP itself). Thus: maybe a President has to take that old, antiquated, pre-9/11 oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States,” but that doesn’t mean you actually have to believe it. What kind of loser checks with his lawyers and cares about “law”?
UPDATE: Many active-duty service members apparently have a much different understanding of “strength” than Rove, Bush, Palin, Cutter and friends, given that the most anti-war presidential candidate is the one who has raised, by far, the most money from those members of the armed forces.
UPDATE II: David Rohde, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning former New York Times reporter and current Reuters columnist, explains how President Obama has significantly expanded executive power and triggered massive anti-American rage in the world through the use of drones and assassinations — or, as Stephanie Cutter and modern-day Democrats would say, he’s showing how Tough And Strong he is (it should be noted that Rohde, who spent months as a hostage of the Taliban, knows much about what motivates anti-American hatred and Terrorism):
Huge Protest in Pakistan Against US Drone Attacks January 29, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Pakistan, War, War on Terror.
Tags: drone missiles, drones, imperialism, pakistan, pakistan government, predator missiles, roger hollander, u.s. military, Yousuf Raza Gilani
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‘Drones are counter-productive’
Over 100,000 Pakistanis rallied in Karachi Friday afternoon to protest US drone strikes on their country. The demonstrators also demanded that the Pakistani government continue the blockade on the NATO supply route to Afghanistan.
Over 100,000 Pakistanis rallied in Karachi Friday afternoon to protest US drone strikes on their country. The Times of India reports:
DAVOS — Pakistan’s prime minister said today that there was “a trust deficit” between Islamabad and Washington as he criticized the resumption of US drone strikes on his country’s tribal belt.
Speaking the day after over 100,000 people massed in Karachi to protest the strikes, Yousuf Raza Gilani said they only served to bolster militants.
“Drones are counter-productive. We have very ably isolated militants from the local tribes. When there are drone attacks that creates sympathy for them again,” Gilani told reporters at the Davos forum.
“It makes the job of the political leadership and the military very difficult. We have never allowed the drone attacks and we have always maintained that they are unacceptable, illegal and counterproductive.”
Relations between the United States and Pakistan have deteriorated sharply over the last year, with Islamabad furious about the surprise deadly raid on al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad last year. [...]
In public, Pakistani leaders always insist they are against drone strikes, which are deeply unpopular in the country, but US officials insist that they privately cooperate with the program.
Agence France-Presse reports:
“We are being forced to become extremists. When you and your religion are humiliated in Guantanamo Bay detention center and your children are being crushed under tanks, then what the victims will ultimately do? They’ll counter your extremism with extremism.”[...] “We are not the enemies of the people of the West and the United States, but we reject the Americans’ attitude by which they always demand of a servile obedience from us,” JUI leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman told the crowd in Pakistan’s financial capital.
The party was not against the talks between Pakistan and the US, “but it should be between two equal sides,” the leader of the country’s most influential religous party said, kicking off campaigning ahead of general elections scheduled next year.
Senior police official Ahsan Zulfiqar said more than 100,000 people attended the gathering in front of the mausoleum of the country’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
Rehman said communism vanished after the fall of Soviet Union and a similar fate was beckoning the West, with the US staring at an “imminent defeat” in Afghanistan.
“Movements like Occupy Wall Street are just the beginning of the end of the imperialism of America and its Western allies,” he said.
“We are being forced to become extremists. When you and your religion are humiliated in Guantanamo Bay detention center and your children are being crushed under tanks, then what the victims will ultimately do? They’ll counter your extremism with extremism.”
America, arms-dealer to the world January 24, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in War.
Tags: arms exports, arms industry, arms race, boeing, drone missile, drones, lockheed martin, merchants of death., munitions, predator, roger hollander, weapons, william astore
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Tuesday, Jan 24, 2012 11:23 AM 20:32:35 EST
Munitions is the one U.S. industry that’s booming — with devastating global consequences
Assembly line workers work on a F-35 fighter aircraft at a production plant in Fort Worth, Texas (Credit: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi)
Perhaps you’ve heard of “Makin’ Thunderbirds,” a hard-bitten rock & roll song by Bob Seger that I listened to 30 years ago while in college. It’s about auto workers back in 1955 who were “young and proud” to be making Ford Thunderbirds. But in the early 1980s, Seger sings, “the plants have changed and you’re lucky if you work.” Seger caught the reality of an American manufacturing infrastructure that was seriously eroding as skilled and good-paying union jobs were cut or sent overseas, rarely to be seen again in these parts.
If the U.S. auto industry has recently shown sparks of new life (though we’re not making T-Birds or Mercuries or Oldsmobiles or Pontiacs or Saturns anymore), there is one form of manufacturing in which America is still dominant. When it comes to weaponry, to paraphrase Seger, we’re still young and proud and makin’ Predators and Reapers (as in unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones) and Eagles and Fighting Falcons (as in F-15 and F-16 combat jets), and outfitting them with the deadliest of weapons. In this market niche, we’re still the envy of the world.
Yes, we’re the world’s foremost “merchants of death,” the title of a best-selling exposé of the international arms trade published to acclaim in the U.S. in 1934. Back then, most Americans saw themselves as war-avoiders rather than as war-profiteers. The evil war-profiteers were mainly European arms makers like Germany’s Krupp, France’s Schneider or Britain’s Vickers.
Not that America didn’t have its own arms merchants. As the authors of “Merchants of Death” noted, early on our country demonstrated a “Yankee propensity for extracting novel death-dealing knickknacks from [our] peddler’s pack.” Amazingly, the Nye Committee in the U.S. Senate devoted 93 hearings from 1934 to 1936 to exposing America’s own “greedy munitions interests.” Even in those desperate depression days, a desire for profit and jobs was balanced by a strong sense of unease at this deadly trade, an unease reinforced by the horrors of and hecatombs of dead from the First World War.
We are uneasy no more. Today we take great pride (or at least have no shame) in being by far the world’s number one arms-exporting nation. A few statistics bear this out. From 2006 to 2010, the U.S. accounted for nearly one-third of the world’s arms exports, easily surpassing a resurgent Russia in the “Lords of War” race. Despite a decline in global arms sales in 2010 due to recessionary pressures, the U.S. increased its market share, accounting for a whopping 53 percent of the trade that year. Last year saw the U.S. on pace to deliver more than $46 billion in foreign arms sales. Who says America isn’t number one anymore?
For a shopping list of our arms trades, try searching the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute database for arms exports and imports. It reveals that, in 2010, the U.S. exported “major conventional weapons” to 62 countries, from Afghanistan to Yemen, and weapons platforms ranging from F-15, F-16 and F-18 combat jets to M1 Abrams main battle tanks to Cobra attack helicopters (sent to our Pakistani comrades) to guided missiles in all flavors, colors, and sizes: AAMs, PGMs, SAMs, TOWs — a veritable alphabet soup of missile acronyms. Never mind their specific meaning: They’re all designed to blow things up; they’re all designed to kill.
Rarely debated in Congress or in U.S. media outlets is the wisdom or morality of these arms deals. During the quiet last days of December 2011, in separate announcements whose timing could not have been accidental, the Obama Administration expressed its intent to sell nearly $11 billion in arms to Iraq, including Abrams tanks and F-16 fighter-bombers, and nearly $30 billion in F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, part of a larger, $60 billion arms package for the Saudis. Few in Congress oppose such arms deals since defense contractors provide jobs in their districts — and ready donations to Congressional campaigns.
Let’s pause to consider what such a weapons deal implies for Iraq. Firstly, Iraq only “needs” advanced tanks and fighter jets because we destroyed their previous generation of the same, whether in 1991 during Desert Shield/Storm or in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Secondly, Iraq “needs” such powerful conventional weaponry ostensibly to deter an invasion by Iran, yet the current government in Baghdad is closely aligned with Iran, courtesy of our invasion in 2003 and the botched occupation that followed. Thirdly, despite its “needs,” the Iraqi military is nowhere near ready to field and maintain such advanced weaponry, at least without sustained training and logistical support provided by the U.S. military.
As one U.S. Air Force officer who served as an advisor to the fledging Iraqi Air Force, or IqAF, recently worried:
“Will the IqAF be able to refuel its own aircraft? Can the Iraqi military offer adequate force protection and security for its bases? Can the IqAF provide airfield management services at its bases as they return to Iraqi control after eight years under US direction? Can the IqAF ensure simple power generation to keep facilities operating? Will the IqAF be able to develop and retain its airmen?… Only time will tell if we left [Iraq] too early; nevertheless, even without a renewed security agreement, the USAF can continue to stand alongside the IqAF.”
Put bluntly: We doubt the Iraqis are ready to field and fly American-built F-16s, but we’re going to sell them to them anyway. And if past history is a guide, if the Iraqis ever turn these planes against us, we’ll blow them up or shoot them down — and then (hopefully) sell them some more.
Our Best Arms Customer
Let’s face it: the weapons we sell to others pale in comparison to the weapons we sell to ourselves In the market for deadly weapons, we are our own best customer. Americans have a love affair with them, the more high-tech and expensive, the better. I should know. After all, I’m a recovering weapons addict.
Well into my teen years, I was fascinated by military hardware. I built models of what were then the latest U.S. warplanes: the A-10, the F-4, the F-14, -15 and -16, the B-1, and many others. I read Aviation Week and Space Technology at my local library to keep track of the newest developments in military technology. Not surprisingly, perhaps, I went on to major in mechanical engineering in college and entered the Air Force as a developmental engineer.
Enamored as I was by roaring afterburners and sleek weaponry, I also began to read books like James Fallows’s ”National Defense” (1981) among other early critiques of the Carter and Reagan defense buildup, as well as the slyly subversive and always insightful “Augustine’s Laws” (1986) by Norman Augustine, later the CEO of Martin Marietta and Lockheed Martin. That and my own experience in the Air Force alerted me to the billions of dollars we were devoting to high-tech weaponry with ever-ballooning price tags but questionable utility.
Perhaps the best example of the persistence of this phenomenon is the F-35 Lightning II. Produced by Lockheed Martin, the F-35 was intended to be an “affordable” fighter-bomber (at roughly $50 million per copy), a perfect complement to the much more expensive F-22 “air superiority” Raptor. But the usual delays, cost overruns, technical glitches and changes in requirements have driven the price tag of the F-35 up to $160 million per plane, assuming the U.S. military persists in its plans to buy 2,400 of them. (If the Pentagon decides to buy fewer, the cost-per-plane will soar into the F-22 range.) By recent estimates the F-35 will now cost U.S. taxpayers (you and me, that is) at least $382 billion for its development and production run. Such a sum for a single weapons system is vast enough to be hard to fathom. It would, for instance, easily fund all federal government spending on education for the next five years.
The escalating cost of the F-35 recalls the most famous of Norman Augustine’s irreverent laws: “In the year 2054,” he wrote back in the early 1980s, “the entire defense budget will [suffice to] purchase just one aircraft.” But the deeper question is whether our military even needs the F-35, a question that’s rarely asked and never seriously entertained, at least by Congress, whose philosophy on weaponry is much like King Lear’s: “O, reason not the need.”
But let’s reason the need in purely military terms. These days, the Air Force is turning increasingly to unmanned drones. Meanwhile, plenty of perfectly good and serviceable “platforms” remain for attack and close air support missions, from F-16s and F-18s in the Air Force and Navy to Apache helicopters in the Army. And while many of our existing combat jets may be nearing the limits of airframe integrity, there’s nothing stopping the U.S. military from producing updated versions of the same. Heck, this is precisely what we’re hawking to the Saudis — updated versions of the F-15, developed in the 1970s.
Because of sheer cost, it’s likely we’ll buy fewer F-35s than our military wants but many more than we actually need. We’ll do so because Weapons ‘R’ Us. Because building ultra-expensive combat jets is one of the few high-tech industries we haven’t exported (due to national security and secrecy concerns), and thus one of the few industries in the U.S. that still supports high-paying manufacturing jobs with decent employee benefits. And who can argue with that?
The Ultimate Cost of Our Merchandise of Death
Clearly, the U.S. has grabbed the brass ring of the global arms trade. When it comes to investing in militaries and weaponry, no country can match us. We are supreme. And despite talk of modest cuts to the Pentagon budget over the next decade, it will, according to President Obama, continue to grow, which means that in weapons terms the future remains bright. After all, Pentagon spending on research and development stands at $81.4 billion, accounting for an astonishing 55 percent of all federal spending on R&D and leaving plenty of opportunity to develop our next generation of wonder weapons.
But at what cost to ourselves and the rest of the world? We’ve become the suppliers of weaponry to the planet’s hotspots. And those weapons deliveries (and the training and support missions that go with them) tend to make those spots hotter still — as in hot lead.
As a country, we seem to have a teenager’s fascination with military hardware, an addiction that’s driving us to bust our own national budgetary allowance. At the same time, we sell weapons the way teenage punks sell fireworks to younger kids: for profit and with little regard for how they might be used.
Sixty years ago, it was said that what’s good for General Motors is good for America. In 1955, as Bob Seger sang, we were young and strong and makin’ Thunderbirds. But today we’re playing a new tune with new lyrics: What’s good for Lockheed Martin or Boeing or [insert major-defense-contractor-of-your-choice here] is good for America.
How far we’ve come since the 1950s!
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- William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel. He has taught cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy, officers at the Naval Postgraduate School, and currently teaches at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. He is the author of “Hindenburg: Icon of German Militarism,” among other books. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. More William Astore
Edging Toward Anarchy With Drones September 24, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in War, War on Terror.
Tags: civilian casualties, drone missiles, drones, hellfire missiles, obama administration, predator missiles, reaper missiles, roger hollander, targeted killings, toronto star, war, War Crimes, war on terror
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They are a lethal bolt out of the blue, and under U.S. President Barack Obama those bolts are coming with ever greater frequency.
Since 9/11, strikes by Predator and Reaper drone aircraft have killed as many as 2,000 Al Qaeda, Taliban and other militants in Pakistan alone, the New America Foundation reports. They have also left as many as 500 innocent civilians dead, fanning anti-American hostility and debate about the legitimacy of such tactics.
Remotely controlled by American military and spy operators, drones can fly hundreds of kilometres and circle targets for hours before firing light but lethal Hellfire missiles. Under Obama, Washington has stepped up their use because it’s a cheap, low-risk way of taking out enemies. And Pakistan isn’t the only theatre of operations. Drones have seen combat in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and increasingly in Somalia and Yemen.
Indeed the Washington Post reports that the U.S. is negotiating a whole new web of secret bases in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula to strike at Al Qaeda offshoots in the region.
Yet, as the United Nations has warned, drone strikes are at the heart of a contentious, clandestine American policy of “targeted killings” — including that of Osama bin Laden earlier this year by U.S. special forces — that would lead to anarchy if other countries were to claim the same sweeping authority to target people anywhere, at any time. That worry is feeding demands for agreed-on rules of the road.
It’s a concern that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government should share, given Canada’s role in founding the United Nations, the International Criminal Court and in shaping the landmine ban. The world can use some creative diplomacy on this issue.
Some guidelines were suggested by Philip Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, in a report last year. Countries that resort to targeted killings should publicly justify their actions under international law. They should also explain how and why individual targets are selected, and why they must be killed rather than captured. They should explain what efforts they make to avoid civilian casualties. And the countries involved should disclose whether they consented, and why. When civilians are killed, that too should be made known.
Bottom line? Countries that invoke self-defence to legitimize targeted killings should not throw such a veil of secrecy over operations that they can’t be held accountable for the results.
CIA Can Expand Using Drones in Pakistan: Report December 4, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Pakistan, War.
Tags: aerial drones, al-Qaeda, cia drones, civilian casualties, drone attackes, drone missiles, drones, extrajudicial executions, hellfire missiles, International law, Obama policy, pakistan, pakistan war, Taliban, un-manned drones, us war, war
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WASHINGTON – The White House has authorized the CIA to expand the use of unmanned aerial drones in Pakistan to track down and strike suspected Taliban and Al-Qaeda members, the New York Times reported Friday.
The Times, citing unnamed sources, said that authorization to expand CIA drone usage in Pakistan’s tribal areas came this week, coinciding with President Barack Obama’s announcement Tuesday of sending 30,000 more US troops to Afghanistan.
Washington is also talking with Pakistani officials about using the drones to strike in Baluchistan — a vast region outside of the tribal areas that borders Afghanistan and Iran — where Afghan Taliban leaders are reportedly hiding, the Times reported.
Analysts, intelligence agents and foreign officials have widely reported that Taliban fighters use Baluchistan as a base, crossing over the border into Afghanistan to and from the Taliban’s spiritual capital of Kandahar.
The northwest Pakistan tribal region has seen a surge in the US strikes, which fan anti-Americanism in the nuclear-armed Muslim country, since Obama took office.
While the drone program began under former president George W. Bush, the Obama administration has continued and expanded it.
Drones, usually armed with Hellfire missiles, are launched in the region and frequently controlled remotely from sites in the United States.
As a rule, the US military does not confirm drone attacks, which US officials say have killed a number of top-level militants.
Islamabad publicly opposes their use as a violation of its sovereignty, but analysts say that Pakistani officials give their use tacit support.
Criticism of the strikes in Pakistan has lessened in public since a US drone attack killed Pakistan’s much-feared Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud on August 5.
In late October, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Philip Alston said that drone usage could be breaking international laws.
“The onus is really on the United States government to reveal more about the ways in which it makes sure that arbitrary extrajudicial executions aren’t in fact being carried out through the use of these weapons,” he added.
Alston said he had presented a report on the matter to the UN General Assembly.
Since August 2008, at least 65 such strikes have killed around 625 people, although it is difficult to confirm the precise identity of many of those who die given that the remote regions targeted are largely closed to outsiders.
© 2009 Agence France-Press